'The Wreck Of The Deutschland' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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to the happy memory of five Francisan nuns, exiles by the Falck Laws,
drowned between midnight |&| morning of December 7 [[1875]].


Thou mastering me
God! giver of breath and bread;
World's strand, sway of the sea;
Lord of living |&| dead;
Thou hast bound bones |&| veins in me, fastened me flesh,
And after it {'a}lmost {'u}nmade, what with dread,
Thy doing: |&| dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger |&| find the{'e}.

I did say yes
O at lightning |&| lashed rod;
Thou heardst me truer than tongue confess
Thy terror, O Christ, O God;
Thou knowest the walls, altar |&| hour |&| night:
The swoon of a heart that the sweep |&| the hurl of thee trod
Hard down with a horror of height:
And the midriff astrain with leaning of, laced with fire of stress.

The frown of his face
Before me, the hurtle of hell
Behind, where, where was a, where was a place?
I whirled out wings that spell
And fled with a fling of the heart to the heart of the Host.
My heart, but you were dovewinged, I can tell,
Carrier-witted, I am bold to boast,
To flash from the flame to the flame then, tower from the grace to the

I am soft sift
In an hourglass -- at the wall
Fast, but mined with a motion, a drift,
And it crowds |&| it combs to the fall;
I steady as a water in a well, to a poise, to a pane,
But roped with, always, all the way down from the tall
Fells or flanks of the voel, a vein
Of the gospel proffer, a pressure, a principle, Christ's gift.

I kiss my hand
To the stars, lovely-asunder
Starlight, wafting him out of it; and
Glow, glory in thunder;
Kiss my hand to the dappled-with-damson west:
Since, tho' he is under the world's splendour |&| wonder,
His mystery must be instressed, stressed;
For I greet him the days I meet him, |&| bless when I understand.

Not out of his bliss
Springs the stress felt
Nor first from heaven (and few know this)
Swings the stroke dealt --
Stroke |&| a stress that stars |&| storms deliver,
That guilt is hushed by, hearts are flushed by |&| melt --
But it rides time like riding a river
(And here the faithful waver, the faithless fable |&| miss).

It dates from day
Of his going in Galilee;
Warm-laid grave of a womb-life grey;
Manger, maiden's knee;
The dense |&| the driven Passion, |&| frightful sweat:
Thence the discharge of it, there its swelling to be,
Tho' felt before, though in high flood yet --
What none would have known of it, only the heart, being hard at bay,

Is out with it! Oh,
We lash with the best or worst
Word last! How a lush-kept plush-capped sloe
Will, mouthed to flesh-burst,
Gush! -- flush the man, the being with it, sour or sweet,
Brim, in a flash, full! -- Hither then, last or first,
To hero of Calvary, Christ,'s feet --
Never ask if meaning it, wanting it, warned of it -- men go.

Be adored among men,
God, three-number{'e}d form;
Wring thy rebel, dogged in den,
Man's malice, with wrecking |&| storm.
Beyond saying sweet, past telling of tongue,
Thou art lightning |&| love, I found it, a winter |&| warm;
Father |&| fondler of heart thou hast wrung:
Hast thy dark descending |&| most art merciful then.

With an anvil-ding
And with fire in him forge thy will
Or rather, rather then, stealing as Spring
Through him, melt him but master him still:
Whether {'a}t {'o}nce, as once at a crash Paul,
Or as Austin, a lingering-out sweet skill,
Make mercy in all of us, out of us all
Mastery, but be adored, but be adored king.

Part the second


"Some find me a sword; some
The flange |&| the rail; flame,
Fang, or flood" goes Death on drum,
And storms bugle his fame.
But w{'e} dr{'e}am we are rooted in earth -- Dust!
Flesh falls within sight of us, we, though our flower the same,
Wave with the meadow, forget that there must
The sour scythe cringe, |&| the blear share come.

On Saturday sailed from Bremen,
Take settler |&| seamen, tell men with women,
Two hundred souls in the round --
O Father, not under thy feathers nor ever as guessing
The goal was a shoal, of a fourth the doom to be drowned;
Yet d{'i}d the dark side of the bay of thy blessing
Not vault them, the million of rounds of thy mercy not reeve even them

Into the snows she sweeps,
Hurling the haven behind,
The Deutschland, on Sunday; |&| so the sky keeps,
For the infinite air is unkind,
And the sea flint-flake, black-backed in the regular blow,
Sitting Eastnortheast, in cursed quarter, the wind;
Wiry |&| white-fiery |&| wh{'i}rlwind-swivell{`e}d snow
Spins to the widow-making unchilding unfathering deeps.

She drove in the dark to leeward,
She struck -- not a reef or a rock
But the combs of a smother of sand: night drew her
Dead to the Kentish Knock;
And she beat the bank down with her bows |&| the ride of her keel:
The breakers rolled on her beam with ruinous shock?
And canvass |&| compass, the whorl |&| the wheel
Idle for ever to waft her or wind her with, these she end{~u}red.

Hope had grown grey hairs,
Hope had mourning on,
Trenched with tears, carved with cares,
Hope was twelve hours gone;
And frightful a nightfall folded rueful a day
Nor rescue, only rocket |&| light ship, shone,
And lives at last were washing away:
To the shrouds they took, -- they shook in the hurling |&| horrible airs.

One stirred from the rigging to save
The wild woman-kind below,
With a rope's end round the man, handy |&| brave --
He was pitched to his death at a blow,
For all his dreadnought breast |&| braids of thew:
They could tell him for hours, dandled the to |&| fro
Through the cobbled foam-fleece. What could he do
With the burl of the fountains of air, buck |&| the flood of the wave?

They fought with God's cold --
And they could not |&| fell to the deck
(Crushed them) or water (and drowned them) or rolled
With the sea-romp over the wreck.
Night roared, with the heart-break hearing a heart-broke rabble,
The woman's wailing, the crying of child without check --
Till a lioness arose breasting the babble,
A prophetess towered in the tumult, a virginal tongue told.

Ah, touched in your bower of bone
Are you! turned for an exquisite smart,
Have you! make words break from me here all alone,
Do you! -- mother of being in me, heart.
O unteachably after evil, but uttering truth,
Why, tears! is it? tears; such a melting, a madrigal start!
Never-eldering revel |&| river of youth,
What can it be, this glee? the good you have there of your own?

Sister, a sister calling
A master, her master |&| mine! --
And the inboard seas run swirling |&| hawling?
The rash smart sloggering brine
Blinds her; but sh{'e} that weather sees {'o}ne thing, one;
Has {'o}ne fetch {'i}n her: she rears herself to divine
Ears, |&| the call of the tall nun
To the men in the tops |&| the tackle rode over the storm's brawling.

She was first of a five |&| came
Of a coif{`e}d sisterhood.
(O Deutschland, double a desperate name!
O world wide of its good!
But Gertrude, lily, |&| Luther, are two of a town,
Christ's lily |&| beast of the waste wood:
From life's dawn it is drawn down,
Abel is Cain's brother and breasts they have sucked the same.)

Loathed for a love men knew in them,
Banned by the land of their birth,
Rhine refused them, Thames would ruin them;
Surf, snow, river |&| earth
Gnashed: but thou art above, thou Orion of light;
Thy unchancelling poising palms were weighing the worth,
Thou martyr-master: in th{'y} sight
Storm flakes were scroll-leaved flowers, lily showers -- sweet heaven was
astrew in them.

Five! the finding |&| sake
And cipher of suffering Christ.
Mark, the mark is of man's make
And the word of it Sacrificed.
But he scores it in scarlet himself on his own bespoken,
Before-time-taken, dearest priz{`e}d |&| priced --
Stigma, signal, cinquefoil token
For lettering of the lamb's fleece, ruddying of the rose-flake.

Joy fall to thee, father Francis,
Drawn to the life that died;
With the gnarls of the nails in thee, niche of the lance, his
Lovescape crucified
And seal of his seraph-arrival! |&| these thy daughters
And five-liv{`e}d |&| leav{`e}d favour |&| pride,
Are sisterly sealed in wild waters,
To bathe in his fall-gold mercies, to breathe in his all-fire glances.

Away in the loveable west,
On a pastoral forehead of Wales,
I was under a roof here, I was at rest,
And they the prey of the gales;
She to the black-about air, to the breaker, the thickly
Falling flakes, to the throng that catches and quails
Was calling "O Christ, Christ, come quickly":
The cross to her she calls Christ to her, christens her wildworst Best.

The majesty! what did she mean?
Breathe, arch |&| original Breath.
Is it l{'o}ve in her of the b{'e}ing as her l{'o}ver had b{'e}en?
Breathe, body of lovely Death.
They were else-minded then, altogether, the men
W{'o}ke thee with a we are p{'e}rishing in the w{'e}ather of
Or {'i}s it that she cried for the crown then,
The keener to come at the comfort for feeling the combating keen?

For how to the heart's cheering
The down-dugged ground-hugged grey
Hovers off, the jay-blue heavens appearing
Of pied |&| peeled May!
Blue-beating |&| hoary-glow height; or night, still higher,
With belled fire |&| the moth-soft Milky way,
What by your measure is the heaven of desire,
The treasure never eyesight got, nor was ever guessed what for the

N{'o}, but it was n{'o}t these.
The jading |&| jar of the cart,
Time's t{'a}sking, it is fathers that asking for ease
Of the sodden-with-its-sorrowing heart,
Not danger, electrical horror; then further it finds
The appealing of the Passion is tenderer in prayer apart:
Other, I gather, in measure her mind's
Burden, in wind's burly |&| beat of endragon{`e}d seas.

But how shall I . . . make me room there:
Reach me a ... Fancy, come faster --
Strike you the sight of it? look at it loom there,
Thing that she ... There then! the Master,
Ipse, the only one, Christ, King, Head:
He was to cure the extremity where he had cast her;
Do, deal, lord it with living |&| dead;
Let him ride, her pride, in his triumph, despatch |&| have done with his
doom there.

Ah! there was a heart right!
There was single eye!
Read the unshapeable shock night
And knew the who |&| the why;
Wording it how but by him that present |&| past,
Heaven |&| earth are word of, worded by? --
The Simon Peter of a soul! to the blast
T{'a}rp{'e}{'i}an-fast, but a blown beacon of light.

Jesu, heart's light,
Jesu, maid's son,
What was the feast followed the night
Thou hadst glory of this nun? --
F{'e}ast of the {'o}ne w{'o}man with{'o}ut st{'a}in.
For so conceiv{`e}d, so to conceive thee is done;
But here was heart-throe, birth of a brain,
Word, that heard |&| kept thee |&| uttered thee {'o}utr{'i}ght.

Well, sh{'e} has th{'e}e for the pain, for the
Patience: but pity of the rest of them!
Heart, go |&| bleed at a bitterer vein for the
Comfortless unconfessed of them --
No not uncomforted: lovely-felicitous Providence
F{'i}nger of a t{'e}nder of, O of a f{'e}athery d{'e}licacy, the
br{'e}ast of the
Maiden could obey so, be a bell to, ring {'o}f it, and
Startle the poor sheep back! is the shipwrack then a harvest, does
tempest carry the grain for thee?

I admire thee, master of the tides,
Of the Yore-flood, of the year's fall;
The recurb |&| the recovery of the gulf's sides,
The girth of it |&| the wharf of it |&| the wall;
Staunching, quenching ocean of a motionable mind;
Ground of being, |&| granite of it: p{'a}st {'a}ll
Gr{'a}sp G{'o}d, thr{'o}ned beh{'i}nd
Death with a sovereignty that heeds but hides, bodes but abides;

With a mercy that outrides
The all of water, an ark
For the listener; for the lingerer with a love glides
Lower than death |&| the dark;
A vein for the visiting of the past-prayer, pent in prison,
The-last-breath penitent spirits -- the uttermost mark
Our passion-plung{`e}d giant risen,
The Christ of the Father compassionate, fetched in the storm of his

Now burn, new born to the world,
Doubled-natur{`e}d name,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
Mid-number{`e}d he in three of the thunder-throne!
Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark as he came;
Kind, but royally reclaiming his own;
A released sh{'o}wer, let fl{'a}sh to the sh{'i}re, not a l{'i}ghtning of
f{'i}re hard-h{'u}rled.

Dame, at our door
Dr{'o}wned, |&| among o{'u}r sh{'o}als,
Remember us in the roads, the heaven-haven of the reward:
Our K{'i}ng back, Oh, upon {'E}nglish s{'o}uls!
Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a
crimson-cresseted east,
More brightening her, rare-dear Britain, as his reign rolls,
Pride, rose, prince, hero of us, high-priest,
Our h{'e}arts' charity's h{'e}arth's f{'i}re, our th{'o}ughts' chivalry's
thr{'o}ng's L{'o}rd.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Literary Criticism and Interpretation of "The Wreck of the Deutschland" by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins is considered one of the most innovative poets of the Victorian era. His work is characterized by its experimental use of language, sound, and rhythm, as well as its deep religious and spiritual themes. "The Wreck of the Deutschland" is one of Hopkins' most famous and celebrated poems, and is widely regarded as a masterpiece of modernist poetry. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the poem's themes, structure, language, and imagery, and examine its significance in the context of Hopkins' life and work.

Historical Context

"The Wreck of the Deutschland" was written in 1875, and was inspired by a tragic event that occurred in December of that year. The Deutschland was a ship that was carrying five Franciscan nuns who were exiled from Germany because of their religious beliefs. The ship was caught in a storm and ran aground on a sandbank off the coast of Kent, England. Only one of the nuns survived the disaster, and the event was widely reported in the press at the time.

Hopkins, who was in his mid-twenties at the time, was deeply affected by the tragedy, and wrote the poem as a tribute to the nuns and their faith. The poem was not published during Hopkins' lifetime, and was only discovered after his death in 1889. It was first published in 1918, and has since become one of Hopkins' most celebrated works.


At its core, "The Wreck of the Deutschland" is a poem about faith, suffering, and redemption. The poem explores the relationship between God and humanity, and the ways in which suffering and tragedy can lead to spiritual transformation and renewal. Hopkins sees the tragedy of the Deutschland as a symbol of the larger human condition, and uses it as a metaphor for the suffering and alienation that we all experience in our lives.

The poem is also deeply concerned with the themes of sacrifice and martyrdom. The nuns on the ship are portrayed as heroic figures who are willing to suffer and die for their beliefs. They are seen as examples of the kind of selfless devotion that Hopkins believed was necessary for true spiritual growth and enlightenment.


"The Wreck of the Deutschland" is a long poem, comprising 35 stanzas of varying lengths. The poem is written in Hopkins' signature style, which is characterized by its dense and complex language, and its use of innovative sound and rhythm. The poem is structured into five sections, each of which focuses on a different aspect of the tragedy.

The first section of the poem introduces the nuns and their journey, and sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The second section describes the storm and the shipwreck, and is the most intense and dramatic part of the poem. The third section focuses on the aftermath of the disaster, and the reactions of the people who witnessed it. The fourth section is the most religious and spiritual part of the poem, and reflects on the implications of the tragedy for the nuns and their faith. The final section is a prayer for the souls of the nuns, and a call to the reader to contemplate their own mortality and the meaning of life.

Language and Imagery

One of the most striking features of "The Wreck of the Deutschland" is its use of language and imagery. Hopkins' language is dense, complex, and highly allusive, and is characterized by its use of neologisms, archaic words, and unusual syntax. The poem is also notable for its use of innovative sound and rhythm, which is designed to capture the intensity and drama of the shipwreck.

The imagery in the poem is both vivid and symbolic, and is designed to convey the complexity and depth of Hopkins' themes. The storm that causes the shipwreck is described in visceral and terrifying terms, with images of lightning, thunder, and waves crashing against the ship. The nuns themselves are portrayed as heroic figures, with images of light, purity, and sacrifice. The poem also contains numerous religious and spiritual images, including references to the cross, the sacraments, and the saints.


"The Wreck of the Deutschland" is a significant poem for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a masterpiece of modernist poetry, and is widely regarded as one of Hopkins' greatest works. Secondly, it is a powerful meditation on the themes of faith, suffering, and redemption, and offers a profound vision of the relationship between God and humanity. Finally, it is a tribute to the five nuns who lost their lives in the tragedy, and a reminder of the sacrifices that people are willing to make for their beliefs.

Hopkins' work has had a profound influence on modern poetry, and "The Wreck of the Deutschland" is a perfect example of his innovative style and deep spirituality. The poem is a masterpiece of language, sound, and imagery, and offers a powerful meditation on the human condition. It is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the complexity and depth of human experience, and to offer us a glimpse of the divine.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Wreck of the Deutschland: A Masterpiece of Poetry

Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit priest and poet, wrote The Wreck of the Deutschland in 1875, a poem that has since become a classic in English literature. The poem is a tribute to the five Franciscan nuns who drowned in the North Sea in 1875 when their ship, the Deutschland, sank. The poem is a complex and intricate work of art that combines Hopkins' unique style of poetry with his religious beliefs, creating a masterpiece that has stood the test of time.

The poem is divided into five parts, each of which tells a different aspect of the story of the Deutschland's sinking. The first part sets the scene, describing the stormy weather and the ship's crew and passengers. Hopkins uses vivid imagery to create a sense of the chaos and danger of the storm, with lines like "The sea drenched our decks and the hurricane hurled / Us under the sky's lashed and long-lashed swell." The second part introduces the nuns, describing their devotion to God and their mission to establish a convent in England. Hopkins uses religious imagery to describe the nuns, calling them "brides of Christ" and "virgins of God."

The third part of the poem describes the moment when the ship begins to sink. Hopkins uses a series of short, fragmented lines to create a sense of panic and confusion, with lines like "O Christ, Christ, come quickly" and "O let him, let him, let him at last be crushed." The fourth part of the poem is a prayer for the souls of the nuns, asking God to have mercy on them and to take them into his kingdom. Hopkins uses religious imagery and language to create a sense of reverence and awe, with lines like "O thou lord of life, send my roots rain" and "O thou terrible, why dost thou hide thyself?"

The final part of the poem is a reflection on the meaning of the tragedy. Hopkins uses the image of a shipwreck to symbolize the fragility of human life and the power of God. He writes, "The ship has weathered the worst and the worst; / The true death of it came when it crumbled, / And the worst of doing without was having done." Hopkins suggests that the tragedy of the Deutschland's sinking is not just a loss of life, but a reminder of the fragility of human existence and the power of God's will.

One of the most striking features of The Wreck of the Deutschland is Hopkins' use of language and form. Hopkins was known for his innovative approach to poetry, which he called "sprung rhythm." Sprung rhythm is a form of poetry that uses irregular meter and stresses to create a sense of natural speech. Hopkins believed that this form of poetry was more true to the rhythms of human speech and more expressive than traditional forms of poetry.

In The Wreck of the Deutschland, Hopkins uses sprung rhythm to great effect. The poem is full of irregular meter and stresses, creating a sense of urgency and intensity. Hopkins also uses a variety of poetic techniques, such as alliteration, assonance, and internal rhyme, to create a musical quality to the poem. The result is a work of art that is both beautiful and powerful.

Another important aspect of The Wreck of the Deutschland is its religious themes. Hopkins was a devout Catholic, and his poetry often reflects his religious beliefs. In this poem, Hopkins uses religious imagery and language to create a sense of reverence and awe. The nuns are described as "brides of Christ" and "virgins of God," and the poem is full of references to God and Christ. Hopkins also uses the tragedy of the sinking to reflect on the power of God and the fragility of human life.

In conclusion, The Wreck of the Deutschland is a masterpiece of poetry that combines Hopkins' unique style with his religious beliefs. The poem is a tribute to the five Franciscan nuns who died in the North Sea in 1875, but it is also a reflection on the fragility of human life and the power of God. Hopkins' use of language and form is innovative and powerful, creating a work of art that is both beautiful and intense. The Wreck of the Deutschland is a classic of English literature that continues to inspire and move readers today.

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