God’s Grandeur by G. M. Hopkins


Lord in Glory with Angels Pietro Perugino 1503

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs ‒
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Hear Malcolm Guite Read Today’s Poem

Isaiah 53:5

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

When we think of the grandeur of God, our first thoughts go to the magnificence of creation.  As St Paul wrote in the book of Romans, God’s ‘invisible attributes are clearly seen’.  Gerard Hopkins describes a world ‘charged’ and ‘flaming out’, but this is more than the appreciation of a sunrise.  Look close and see the essence of God in Gethsemane.

As Malcom Guite writes in The Word in the Wilderness:

Crushed’ is the key word in this poem, and it is the link with Gethsemane. Gethsemane, you remember means ‘Oil-Press’. It is in the press and pressure of Gethsemane that God’s grandeur ‘gathers to a greatness’. There, where we least expect it, that deepest charge of glory is to be found. This is also the heart of John’s Gospel. The constant question in the first part of that gospel, you remember, is when and how God’s glory is going to be revealed, when is the ‘hour’ coming? And when it comes, it comes not at the brightest but at the darkest moment. It happens in the transition between John 13.30 and 31, just as Judas goes out to betray him and begin the chain of events that will lead to Gethsemane and the cross:

‘So, after receiving the piece of bread he immediately went out. And it was night. When he had gone out Jesus said ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified and God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.’

Christ has come to be crushed, crushed with us, so that in him, through him, and for us, the glory might be revealed and the oil pressed. The oil that is his Eleison, his mercy and healing, poured into the world.

How does crushing reveal essence?

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John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.





Malcolm Guite
Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite is poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge, but he often travels round Great Britain, and to North America, to give lectures, concerts and poetry readings.  For more details of these and other engagements go to his Events Page. You can read more about him on this Interviews Page

He is the author of numerous books including

Parable and Paradox: Sonnets on the Sayings of Jesus and Other Poems Canterbury Press 2016

Waiting on the Word; a poem a day for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany Canterbury Press 2015

The Singing Bowl Canterbury Press 2013

Sounding the Seasons Canterbury Press 2012

Faith Hope and Poetry  Ashgate  2010 and 2012.

What Do Christians Believe?  Granta 2006

Photo courtesy of Lancia Smith.


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Rick Wilcox

Editor in Chief | Literary Life