“Over the Bent World”

To celebrate today’s feast of Pentecost, my church placed an abundance of spring foliage on the floor before the iconostasis. The blue and red-robed icons of Christ and Mary the Theotokos rose right out of the vernal turf — a vision of their thrones in paradise.

The priest said this is traditional at Pentecost: the greens signify the eternal spring of the Church as the Holy Spirit constantly renews her. It does not always feel like springtime here in this vale of tears. But God so loves the world, and Christ gives his life for his spouse.

The priest’s words about spring and the work of the Holy Spirit reminded me of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “God’s Grandeur.” I never before considered this a Pentecostal poem, but now I see that spirit of renewal springing from the two stanzas together. The first stanza ends almost in dismay: “man’s smudge” seems to mar everything, even the very grandeur of God. But in spite of this, Hopkins says in the second stanza, creation is never spent. There is a delight, a love, a “dearest freshness” beyond our ability to make or mar. Hopkins perceives in this the very action of the Holy Spirit–the gift of our Lord on this feast of Pentecost.

Here is the full text of Hopkins’s poem, which is best read aloud.

God’s Grandeur
by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89)

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.

One thought on ““Over the Bent World””

  1. Thanks. Pleased to have found your blog. Hopkins was able to compress such powerful thought into so few highly original lines. Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox (give it a spin).

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