As a Jesuit priest who had converted to Catholicism in the summer of 1866, Gerard Manley Hopkins’s mind was no doubt saturated with the Bible (Bergonzi 34). Although in "God’s Grandeur" Hopkins does not use any specific quotations from the Bible, he does employ images that evoke a variety of biblical verses and scenes, all of which lend meaning to his poem. Hopkins "creates a powerful form of typological allusion by abstracting the essence--the defining conceit, idea, or structure--from individual scriptural types" (Landow, "Typological" 1). Through its biblical imagery, the poem manages to conjure up, at various points, images of the Creation, the Fall, Christ’s Agony and Crucifixion, man’s continuing sinfulness and rebellion, and the
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. . hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire" (Rev. 2.18). In Exodus, God appears "unto [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush" (Exod. 3.2; Boyle 31). After promising Samson’s parents a son, the angel of the Lord "ascended in the flame of the altar" (Judges 13.20). It is possible, too, that this flame is meant to recall the "cloven tongues like as of fire" that appeared above men on the day of Pentecost, when God’s grandeur was shown through the descent of His Holy Spirit and in the speaking of tongues (Acts 2.1-4; Boyle 27-28).
The second half of this image is primarily a scientific one. It refers to gold leaf foil as used to measure electrical charges in Faraday’s famous experiment (Boyle 26). But there is also a biblical significance. Proverbs 4:18 tells us that "the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Just as light is reflected from gold foil, flashing out in multiplying rays, so too does the Light of God, which leads men, continue to increase. This image in one way ties into lines three and four of Hopkins’s poem, in which God’s grandeur "gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil / Crushed." Both images demonstrate a process of increase in God’s grandeur. Gethsemane "means the ‘place of the olive-press’" (Landow, "Typological" 6; Boyle 32). It was there that God’s grandeur "gather[ed] to a greatness," for it was