Thanksgiving Poem

November 27, 1998 at 12:00 AM EDT


ROBERT PINSKY, Poet Laureate:

What does it mean to be thankful on the grand scale, 
in the face of the sometimes cold or soiled or frightening modern world?
Gerard Manley Hopkins – writing near the previous turn of the century – found the force of spirituality and the sublime in images of the industrial revolution – sheet metal and factories, oil crushed between metal parts, even the brown cloud of smog over the smokestacks of an industrial landscape. It all makes him thankful. The smog, itself, makes him think of the Holy Ghost. Here’s Hopkins’s poem:

God’s Grandeur 

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.

Can we find corresponding images of freshness to be thankful for?
Freshness, deep down things like the computer monitor, or the super 
highway full of mini-vans? If so, nearing the turn of another century, 
that is something to be thankful for.