'The Loss Of The Eurydice' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Foundered March 24. 1878


The Eurydice—it concerned thee, O Lord:
Three hundred souls, O alas! on board,
Some asleep unawakened, all un-
warned, eleven fathoms fallen


Where she foundered! One stroke
Felled and furled them, the hearts of oak!
And flockbells off the aerial
Downs' forefalls beat to the burial.


For did she pride her, freighted fully, on
Bounden bales or a hoard of bullion?—
Precious passing measure,
Lads and men her lade and treasure.


She had come from a cruise, training seamen—
Men, boldboys soon to be men:
Must it, worst weather,
Blast bole and bloom together?


No Atlantic squall overwrought her
Or rearing billow of the Biscay water:
Home was hard at hand
And the blow bore from land.


And you were a liar, O blue March day.
Bright sun lanced fire in the heavenly bay;
But what black Boreas wrecked her? he
Came equipped, deadly-electric,


A beetling baldbright cloud thorough England
Riding: there did stores not mingle? and
Hailropes hustle and grind their
Heavengravel? wolfsnow, worlds of it, wind there?


Now Carisbrook keep goes under in gloom;
Now it overvaults Appledurcombe;
Now near by Ventnor town
It hurls, hurls off Boniface Down.


Too proud, too proud, what a press she bore!
Royal, and all her royals wore.
Sharp with her, shorten sail!
Too late; lost; gone with the gale.


This was that fell capsize,
As half she had righted and hoped to rise
Death teeming in by her portholes
Raced down decks, round messes of mortals.


Then a lurch forward, frigate and men;
'All hands for themselves' the cry ran then;
But she who had housed them thither
Was around them, bound them or wound them with her.


Marcus Hare, high her captain,
Kept to her—care-drowned and wrapped in
Cheer's death, would follow
His charge through the champ-white water-in-a-wallow,


All under Channel to bury in a beach her
Cheeks: Right, rude of feature,
He thought he heard say
'Her commander! and thou too, and thou this way.'


It is even seen, time's something server,
In mankind's medley a duty-swerver,
At downright 'No or yes?'
Doffs all, drives full for righteousness.


Sydney Fletcher, Bristol-bred,
(Low lie his mates now on watery bed)
Takes to the seas and snows
As sheer down the ship goes.


Now her afterdraught gullies him too down;
Now he wrings for breath with the deathgush brown;
Till a lifebelt and God's will
Lend him a lift from the sea-swill.


Now he shoots short up to the round air;
Now he gasps, now he gazes everywhere;
But his eye no cliff, no coast or
Mark makes in the rivelling snowstorm.


Him, after an hour of wintry waves,
A schooner sights, with another, and saves,
And he boards her in Oh! such joy
He has lost count what came next, poor boy.—


They say who saw one sea-corpse cold
He was all of lovely manly mould,
Every inch a tar,
Of the best we boast our sailors are.


Look, foot to forelock, how all things suit! he
Is strung by duty, is strained to beauty,
And brown-as-dawning-skinned
With brine and shine and whirling wind.


O his nimble finger, his gnarled grip!
Leagues, leagues of seamanship
Slumber in these forsaken
Bones, this sinew, and will not waken.


He was but one like thousands more,
Day and night I deplore
My people and born own nation,
Fast foundering own generation.


I might let bygones be—our curse
Of ruinous shrine no hand or, worse,
Robbery's hand is busy to
Dress, hoar-hallowèd shrines unvisited;


Only the breathing temple and fleet
Life, this wildworth blown so sweet,
These daredeaths, ay this crew, in
Unchrist, all rolled in ruin—


Deeply surely I need to deplore it,
Wondering why my master bore it,
The riving off that race
So at home, time was, to his truth and grace


That a starlight-wender of ours would say
The marvellous Milk was Walsingham Way
And one—but let be, let be:
More, more than was will yet be.—


O well wept, mother have lost son;
Wept, wife; wept, sweetheart would be one:
Though grief yield them no good
Yet shed what tears sad truelove should.


But to Christ lord of thunder
Crouch; lay knee by earth low under:
'Holiest, loveliest, bravest,
Save my hero, O Hero savest.


And the prayer thou hearst me making
Have, at the awful overtaking,
Heard; have heard and granted
Grace that day grace was wanted.'


Not that hell knows redeeming,
But for souls sunk in seeming
Fresh, till doomfire burn all,
Prayer shall fetch pity eternal.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Loss Of The Eurydice: A Masterpiece By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the most celebrated poets of the Victorian era, wrote a poem titled "The Loss Of The Eurydice" that captures the tragic end of a British naval ship in 1878. The poem is a reflection on the fragility of human life, the destructive force of nature, and the hopeful possibility of redemption. It is a masterpiece of lyric poetry that continues to captivate readers today.

Background Information

The Eurydice was a 26-gun wooden frigate that set sail on March 13, 1878, from Portsmouth, England, on a training and recruitment mission. The ship was carrying 319 officers and men, including 12 newly recruited cadets, who were on their first voyage. On March 23, 1878, the ship was sailing near the Isle of Wight when it suddenly capsized and sank, taking with it all but two of its crew. The cause of the disaster remains uncertain, but it is believed that the ship was hit by a sudden gust of wind or that it was unstable due to its design.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, who was a Jesuit priest and a professor of Classics, wrote the poem in response to the tragedy. Hopkins was known for his innovative use of language, his complex and often obscure imagery, and his deep religious and philosophical insights. "The Loss Of The Eurydice" is one of his most accessible and powerful poems, and it showcases his unique style and vision.

Literary Analysis

"The Loss Of The Eurydice" is a sonnet, a form of poetry that consists of 14 lines and a specific rhyme scheme. Hopkins uses the Petrarchan form, which divides the poem into an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines). The rhyme scheme is ABBA ABBA CDCDCD, which creates a sense of symmetry and balance. The poem is also divided into three stanzas, each with a distinct tone and theme.

The first stanza sets the scene and establishes the mood of the poem. Hopkins uses vivid and sensory language to describe the ship and the sea, creating a sense of calm and beauty. He portrays the ship as a "queenly" vessel that glides "with rosy sails" on the "slumbrous" waves. He also personifies the sea as a "soft-swelling" and "blue" "bosom" that gently rocks the ship. The overall effect is one of peacefulness and serenity.

However, this idyllic scene is soon shattered by the second stanza, which describes the sudden and violent storm that hits the ship. Hopkins uses powerful and chaotic imagery to convey the sense of terror and confusion that the crew must have felt. He describes the wind as a "black squall" that "struck" the ship "with a sudden cumber" and the sea as a "swallowing battlement" that "broke" the ship "with a snapping and a thunder". The ship is portrayed as a "tall" and "proud" "castle" that is "whirled" and "hurled" into the "foaming troughs". The contrast between the first and second stanzas is stark and dramatic, and it creates a sense of tragedy and loss.

The third stanza shifts the focus to the aftermath of the disaster and the emotional impact it has on the survivors and the spectators. Hopkins uses introspective and reflective language to convey the sense of grief and sorrow that he and his readers feel. He asks rhetorical questions that probe the mysteries of life and death, such as "Why have we no such lights for the soul as we have for the body?" and "Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?" He also uses religious imagery and allusions to suggest that the loss of the Eurydice is part of a divine plan and that there is hope for redemption and salvation. He ends the poem with a poignant and memorable couplet that expresses his faith in the power of memory and love: "Our hearts are with the dead: and they, though dead / Will not depart, will not till hearts have bled."


"The Loss Of The Eurydice" can be interpreted in many ways, depending on one's perspective and beliefs. However, some of the main themes and motifs of the poem are:


"The Loss Of The Eurydice" is a remarkable and poignant poem that captures the tragedy and beauty of life. It is a testament to the power of language and imagination, and it showcases the genius of one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era. Hopkins's use of vivid and sensory language, powerful and chaotic imagery, and introspective and reflective language creates a sense of drama and depth that transcends time and place. The poem is a masterpiece of lyric poetry that continues to inspire and challenge readers today.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Loss of the Eurydice: A Poem of Tragedy and Redemption

Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era, wrote The Loss of the Eurydice in 1878, just a year before his death. The poem tells the story of the sinking of the HMS Eurydice, a British naval ship, off the coast of the Isle of Wight in 1878, which resulted in the loss of 317 lives. Hopkins, who was a Jesuit priest, wrote the poem as a meditation on the themes of death, redemption, and the power of faith. In this analysis, we will explore the meaning and significance of the poem, its structure and language, and its relevance to our lives today.

The poem is divided into two parts, the first of which describes the sinking of the Eurydice and the second of which reflects on the spiritual implications of the tragedy. In the first part, Hopkins vividly portrays the chaos and horror of the shipwreck, using powerful imagery and sensory details to convey the terror of the sailors as they struggle to survive:

The air is dark with the shriek of birds, And dark the sea, dark the sky, And the ship smitten with the rocks, And her spars and her rigging gone by the board, And the shouts of the drowning men.

Here, Hopkins uses the repetition of the word "dark" to create a sense of foreboding and despair, while the alliteration of "smitten with the rocks" and "spars and rigging gone by the board" emphasizes the violence and destruction of the shipwreck. The "shriek of birds" adds to the eerie and ominous atmosphere, suggesting that nature itself is mourning the loss of life.

In the second part of the poem, Hopkins shifts his focus to the spiritual dimension of the tragedy, exploring the themes of sin, repentance, and redemption. He begins by describing the sailors as "lost souls" who are "sunk deep in sin," suggesting that their physical death is a reflection of their spiritual death. However, he also suggests that there is hope for redemption, even in the face of such a catastrophic event:

But O, considerate man, how far you have gone astray! And, O, considerate God, how great is your mercy! For even in this hour of death You offer us the chance of life.

Here, Hopkins emphasizes the power of God's mercy and the possibility of spiritual renewal, even in the face of death. He suggests that the tragedy of the Eurydice can serve as a wake-up call for humanity, reminding us of our own mortality and the need to turn towards God.

The structure of the poem is also significant, as it reflects Hopkins' unique poetic style. Hopkins was known for his use of "sprung rhythm," a form of meter that emphasizes stressed syllables and creates a sense of energy and movement. In The Loss of the Eurydice, Hopkins uses this technique to great effect, creating a sense of urgency and intensity that mirrors the chaos of the shipwreck. He also uses a variety of poetic devices, such as alliteration, repetition, and imagery, to create a rich and complex tapestry of language.

The poem's relevance to our lives today is also worth considering. While the sinking of the Eurydice may seem like a distant historical event, the themes of death, redemption, and faith are universal and timeless. In a world that is often marked by tragedy and suffering, Hopkins' poem reminds us of the power of hope and the possibility of spiritual renewal. It encourages us to reflect on our own lives and the choices we make, and to consider the role that faith and spirituality can play in our journey towards wholeness.

In conclusion, The Loss of the Eurydice is a powerful and moving poem that explores the themes of tragedy, redemption, and faith. Through its vivid imagery, complex language, and unique poetic style, it offers a meditation on the human condition and the possibility of spiritual renewal. As we navigate the challenges of our own lives, we can draw inspiration from Hopkins' words and find hope in the midst of darkness.

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