Poetry
during the Victorian Era was a hard era to analyze because writers during this
time would write about many different ideas and its readers would have a hard
time in keeping up with the different themes that the author was trying to get
across because writers during this time would experiment with the theme and
tone of their writing making religion and politics for the most part, the main theme
in their writings. Linda Hughes says “complex, challenging, and experimental”
(p. 1). This is what made poetry in the Victorian era so memorable and at times
hard to understand. An example of religious poetry is “Pied Beauty” by Gerard
Hopkins. In this poem Hopkins talks about praising God for the beauty that He
has created. Another example of religion in poetry during the Victorian era would
be: “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold. The author of this poem describes an
individual who has lost faith and realizes that death is inevitable. Not exactly
a love poem, but a truth that existed during the Victorian Era and that can
still be applied to today’s life. Both of these poems were written to portray a
sense of religion that was influenced in the author’s lives. Although authors
during the Victorian Era experimented with tones and themes, it is nice to know
that there are modern scholars that put faith into their poems in order to reflect
their view of who God is in them.  This
is a good way to get people to read poetry about God without having to say
something about Him directly, but rather read about Him; like in reading the
bible.

Gerard
Hopkins is known for using his poetry to give honor and glory to God for
everything that He does for humanity as well as illustrate that God has control
over everything. Hopkins is able to do this through secular terms that were
used during this era, like “Dappled things”.  Dappled meaning even in the simplest to most
insignificant things created or done by God. This can be found in the poem “Peid
Beauty” “Glory be to God for dappled things” (2013, p. 2230). Here the
reader can see that Hopkins is trying to help individuals understand that no
matter what you are going through it is important to look at everything that
God has created as good and beautiful even if it means having freckles. Women
during this time did not see freckles as something beautiful, which was why
Hopkins tries to help these women understand that God made them beautiful even
with their freckles. It was like Hopkins was telling them that God made them
unique with a purpose and just to embrace the natural beauty that God gave them.
It was admirable that Hopkins would empower women in this manner even if he did
not mean to do it directly. Leading publisher Gale Cengage states that Hopkins
was bold in his writings: “To describe these things is noteworthy, as these are
both qualities that were neither admired nor appreciated in the Victorian age”
(p. 6).  Not only was Hopkins a person trying
to help people embrace God and see his work as beautiful, he was also a priest
who was trying to bring revival during the Victorian Era. The Oxford Movement had
a lot to do with the rival of faith during this time as well: “poetry’s sacred
function was also profoundly influenced by the Oxford Movement, an attempt to
revivify faith, and its ancient foundations in the face of secular modernity”(Hughes
2010).

In
the poem “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold, it seems that the character is trying
to seek peace and calmness in the sea as he reflects on his life and chaotic
world around him after having lost all faith. It seems as though Arnold has an
understanding of who God is, but does not put his trust in Him and it may have
been because of the situations that Arnold went through causing him to believe
that God was not with him during his troubling times. “The Sea of Faith was
once… but now I only hear its melancholy” (2013, p. 2172). “He mourns the loss
of faith in God, which provided security and meaning to people in the past, and
compares the passing of faith to the ebb of the tide” (p. 1). The reader can
understand that the individual has lost faith in God and is trying to find something
that will replace his loss of faith for something else. The reader can see this
when the author replaces the beauty of God with the beauty of the Sea and tries
to secularize his faith (Cronin, 2012, p. 159). 
An important factor to look at during the Victorian Age is that no one spoke
about losing their faith, and Arnold was able to portray his loss of Faith
through his poetry writing. Linda Hughes also agrees that Arnold’s poems are
based on religion and how individuals perceive it. “Poem’s focus is on
religion, and its restrained tone are also consistent with the decorous piety
that Victorian readers expect from the ‘poetess’ in an era when Bible reading
and sermons were part of daily life” (p. 9). Because of Arnold’s lack of Faith,
he turns to his educations in order to help him reach his goals. Arnold’s writings
are the complete opposite of what Hopkins would write when it came to the discussion
of Faith.

Overall both poems are perfect examples of the Victorian Era and its
authors as well as the use of religion and how it helped create most of their
writings. Having two themes were one believes God is all mighty and all
powerful for creating everything that exists “Pied Beauty.”  And on the other hand “Dover Beach” the
author portrays abandonment and loss of faith in God. Two extremes that were
portrayed during the Victorian age that caused rivalry between poets because of
religious views. In today’s generation, it is no surprise that when the name of
Jesus comes up everyone becomes offended. It is amazing to see people react to
the name of Jesus’ when they say that He does not exist. It just proves that He
is still alive and the sin that people carry is what makes them feel so
offended and not want to hear His name, because it would mean to leave the way
of life that they are living, and most do not want to leave their life of sin. Because
of all the controversy during the Victorian Era, it has been hard for scholars
to critique the poets and their writings, but has made for some good reading
and broad viewpoints. It is important when reading poetry during this time to
read them with an open mind and try to understand the theme that the author was
trying to get the reader to understand. By doing this the reader can have a
better understanding of each era and have a clear understanding of what the
people of that time were going through and how it relates in today’s generation.

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