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Flashing Foil and Oozing Oil: Trinitarian Images in the First Quatrain of "God's Grandeur"

Flashing Foil and Oozing Oil: Trinitarian Images in the First Quatrain of "God's Grandeur" ELIZABETH VILLEPONTEAUX CHRISTIAN POEMS in the English language launches its message with a pair of images that are immediately obscure. The apparently straightforward statement that opens Gerard Manley Hopkins' "God's Grandeur" reveals, like much of the sonnet's remainder, clear meaning in an instant and then further insight over time. However, the images that succeed that statement have long generated noisy confusion. A piece of foil, shaken by anonymous hands, produces flashes of light that sparkle forth like flames; oil oozes from something crushed or crushing, likewise unnamed. Though the poem is otherwise complex yet remarkably lucid, these images have at times been interpreted as signs of intentional oddness or sheer sloppiness. It is difficult, though, to believe that a poet writing of bare soil and shod feet, the setting sun and a brooding dove­images that are immediately evocative­ would have deliberately opened with obscure concepts. And we should not easily accept that a poet skillful enough to speak powerfully to the widest possible range of readers may have begun a poem carelessly only to complete it with obvious care. Our widespread confusion should not lead us to assume that Hopkins meant to be confusing, nor that it was http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Victorian Poetry West Virginia University Press

Flashing Foil and Oozing Oil: Trinitarian Images in the First Quatrain of "God's Grandeur"

Victorian Poetry , Volume 40 (2) – Jan 6, 2002

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Publisher
West Virginia University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2002 West Virginia University.
ISSN
1530-7190
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Abstract

ELIZABETH VILLEPONTEAUX CHRISTIAN POEMS in the English language launches its message with a pair of images that are immediately obscure. The apparently straightforward statement that opens Gerard Manley Hopkins' "God's Grandeur" reveals, like much of the sonnet's remainder, clear meaning in an instant and then further insight over time. However, the images that succeed that statement have long generated noisy confusion. A piece of foil, shaken by anonymous hands, produces flashes of light that sparkle forth like flames; oil oozes from something crushed or crushing, likewise unnamed. Though the poem is otherwise complex yet remarkably lucid, these images have at times been interpreted as signs of intentional oddness or sheer sloppiness. It is difficult, though, to believe that a poet writing of bare soil and shod feet, the setting sun and a brooding dove­images that are immediately evocative­ would have deliberately opened with obscure concepts. And we should not easily accept that a poet skillful enough to speak powerfully to the widest possible range of readers may have begun a poem carelessly only to complete it with obvious care. Our widespread confusion should not lead us to assume that Hopkins meant to be confusing, nor that it was

Journal

Victorian PoetryWest Virginia University Press

Published: Jan 6, 2002

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