Elizabeth Bishop: Poems

Hopkins and Elizabeth Bishop: Evidence of “God’s Grandeur” in “Filling Station”

In his essay “Action and Repose—Gerard Manley Hopkins’s influence in the Poems of Elizabeth Bishop,” Ben Howard notes the strong influence Hopkins had on poems like “The Prodigal” and “The Fish,” by Elizabeth Bishop. Another one of Bishop’s poems that seems to draw heavily, both thematically and stylistically, from Hopkins is “Filling Station,” which describes a dirty gas station and the family that owns it. In its exploration of the dirt that man smears all over his environment, the poem seems to imitate several elements from Hopkins’s “God’s Grandeur.”

The most obvious connection between “God’s Grandeur” and “Filling Station” is its shared subject matter. The first line of Bishop’s poem, “Oh, but it is dirty!” (1) directly reflects the world “seared with trade, bleared, smeared with toil” that Hopkins describes (6). Additionally, just as Hopkins’s poem focuses on the fact that it is “man” who causes this dirtiness (7), Bishop describes the “Father” and the “greasy sons” as the embodiment of the station’s grime (7, 11). Finally, the most compelling image that Bishop takes from Hopkins is that of God’s grandeur as “the ooze of oil / Crushed” (3-4). The words “oil” and “grease” permeate the poem, and Bishop even employs the word...

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