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Written by:
Trinity Hall
16 Apr 2020

Gerard Manley Hopkins poem God’s Grandeur

Hopkins poem is not just another lament for the wounds we have inflicted on our world. As a Christian priest, a Jesuit, he sees the damage we have done as our failure to “Reck God’s rod”, and calls on us to be in awe of the grandeur of God’s creation. Surely he also reminds us that no matter how far science and technology evolve in their search to understand nature we will never be the ones who make the world go round, who ensure “that morning at the brown brink eastward springs”. Hopkins says It is the Holy Ghost who “over the bent world broods with warm body and ah bright wings”.

Over the years I presented the BBC Rado 4 programme Something Understood I met many remarkable scientists, men and women of various faiths and of no faith too. Some were actively hostile to belief in God. But all the scientists I met admitted they were awestruck by the complexity, and often the beauty, of the workings of nature science revealed.

Is this pandemic perhaps a reminder that we have not been sufficiently in awe of nature, or of the limits of our knowledge too, remarkable though the achievements of science are? I am deeply grateful to all the scientists striving to find a vaccine to protect us from the Coronavirus, the doctors and other health workers caring for patients suffering from the virus too. At the same time this global pandemic reminds me of the words of the great Indian polymath, Rabindranath Tagore, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. He believed we are part of what he called “the fundamental unity of creation” and our lives objective should be ”to realise this great harmony in feeling and in action.” Going back to Hopkins, if we realise that harmony we will be awe struck by the grandeur the world is charged with and we will tread more carefully.

Mark Tully read Theology at Trinity Hall before a 30 year career with The BBC. For 20 years he was Bureau Chief of the BBC, New Delhi, receiving the KBE in 2002 and the Padma Bhushan in 2005.