1. Why is this poem divided into two parts, and how are the two parts related, formally and thematically?
2. To what extent is this poem an elegy? What other generic features may it have?
--a Pindaric ode, celebrates a hero
--a meditation, contemplating the passion of Christ
--any form of narrative?
3. What are some unusual features of the language and imagery of “The Wreck”? Can you give some examples of usage and indicate the effects of each?
--flashing, sudden violence of extremity (st. 10, anvil, God as forger)
4. Why do you think the poet chose this particular incident as the subject for a poem contemplating the human condition? (e. g. shipwreck/sea/martyrdom/group travelling to England to effect the conversion of the English; incident an extreme example of the basic instressing of emotion and act, passion as exemplifying God’s instress in creation; poet sees an analogy between his own conversion and the conversion of the British nation)
5. What is the relationship between the narrator and his subject, in part I? In part II? Does the poem contain any other significant personae, and how are these significant?
6. What are some features of the speaker’s emotional life and response to his own condition?
7. How is sprung rhythm used within this poem? What seems to be its purpose?
8. What are unusual features of this poem’s structure?
9. What seems characteristic/unusual about the speaker’s interaction with God? The interaction between the Divine Being and the subject of the poem? Between the speaker and the subject of the poem?
10. What are some patterns of repeated imagery? Do these help bind the poem together? Do their associations form a coherent pattern?
--use of correspondences and analogies
--feast of Immaculate Conception; conception of Christ in soul; time of incident accords with symbology of the church year; female martyr figure appropriate focus for feast of Mary
--dawning at night
--images both active and passive; many images of violence seem almost painful, sudden paradoxes and oxymoronic shifts of emotion
11. What effect is caused by the poem’s shifts in topography, time, and the physical and emotional state of the narrator?
12. What are some startling or sudden effects within the poem, and how do these contribute to its meaning? --movement from height to depth/upwards and downwards --shift in length of lines, rhythms --use of sounds and careening cadences--after violence, gentle contrast
13. Does God actively cause the shipwreck, according to Hopkins? (st. 9, “Wring thy rebel . . . with wrecking and storm”; God is to make mastery, God a forger, st.10) If so, would this have been an orthodox explanation for evil and pain?
14. What are some of the poem’s repeated images?
15. What are some aural qualities of this poem? Does it gain from being read aloud?
16. How does Hopkins deal with the issue of his own and the reader’s belief? Does he attempt to persuade his readers/auditors of the validity of his interpretations? --Wherever there might be a doubt, the narrator interjects a rhapsodic affirmation, e. g. st. 12 Are these methods effective?
17. Does one need to share Hopkins’s religious beliefs in order to appreciate this poem?
18. What are some ways in which this poem differs strikingly from Tennyson’s “In Memoriam,” another major religious poem of the period?
A Paraphrase of "The Wreck of the Deutschland"
1. God, you who overcome me, who give life and food,
The boundary and container of the known universe, the force which moves its oceans,
The Controller of all humankind, those dead and alive,
You have bound skeleton and blood into me, fastened my "self" into a body,
Then with the terror of your existence nearly destroyed me;
Now do you again approach me? Yet again I sense your touch and meet you.
2. You know the room and altar at which it occurred, and on what night: --
My fainting beneath your overwhelming and sweeping force,
Flattened with fear and distaste at your enormity and exaltation,
Bowed at the waist with a stretching, burning tension.
I cried yes! Bring to me the flashing brilliance and the pain of life.
3. With his condemning countenance before me, a steep chasm plunging into hell behind, where could I find refuge?
I grew wings for release and fled sweeping to the center of the host, that visible sign of Christ's death.
I can proclaim and boast, my heart, that you were the messenger of peace,
Leaping between fires, standing tall and poised between expressions of God's mercy.
4. I am the weak sand of an hourglass--quickly spewed out to the wall but sucked down, a slide falling in swellings and indentations;
I steady myself as water in the center of a well is pulled into flatness,
Constantly however I am pulled upwards from the height above;
The connecting cord is the offering of the gift of Christ, a doctrine, a tension, good news.
5. I revere and feel gratitude for the remote, individuated starlight;
I bear God to myself away from it; I burn and shine, rejoicing in thunder;
I kiss my hand to the sunset, mottled with plum color:
Although he exists through all the world's beauty and awesomeness,
His mystery must be perceived, emphasized, imprinted in patterns on nature;
I salute and praise him on those days when I comprehend and confront his identity.
6. God's presence is not an emanation from his own happiness and stasis, nor does his interference in nature descend from heaven (few understand this); tempests and stars convey its presence; it stills guilt and dissolves and cleanses the sprit. But it rocks and flows within time; at this the believing doubt, the unbelieving fictionalize and err.
7. God's stroke downward began with Christ's conception in Galilee, laid in the grave of the dark womb; then his birth, his nurture, his excruciating suffering; this pain was its chief outlet, its upsurge--though it had been perceived before (Old Testament) and is still fully evident--an incarnation none would have recognized had not the cornered soul
8. Proclaimed it! The last word flares out--the best or worst of the sequence, its epitomized meaning. A rich ripe plum, bitten, will burst its skin and gush forth--filling the biter's taste, either with sourness or sweetness--completely, fully, suddenly! Here then men bow to Christ, Calvary's hero, whether they intend, desire, or expect to do so.
9. Be worshipped among men, triune God; send entrapment and shipwreck to man's malice, which rebels against you. I found that you were sweet beyond expression, paradoxically warm and icy, love and judgement: a caressing parent to the heart you have tortured (pained, distressed). You are most merciful in your harsh descents.
10. With blows and fire shape into him your impress and purpose, or rather, steal as gently as spring into his heart but overcome it nonetheless: Whether at once, as Paul was blinded into conversion, or with slow dexterity, as Augustine was wooed, create your grace and dominance in us all, but be worshipped as ruler.
11. "Some come to me through war, fire, railroad wreck, flood, or murderous animals," rattles out the drummer Death, and storms herald his appearance. But we fancy we will always live--we who were merely fashioned of dust to begin with. Other persons die, and though we are equally vulnerable, we blithely and trivially enjoy our brief existence, forgetting that the bitter scythe will harvest us, the dim ploughshares root us from earth.
12. On Saturday the "Deutschland" left Bremen, bound for the United States; including the crew and emigrants it contained about two hundred souls (persons). They were not trusting to your protection, Father, nor anticipating that a fourth of them would drown; still didn't the dark side of your mercy arch over and rope them in?
13. On Sunday she rushes through the snow, flinging the harbor from her, and so the sky remains unchanged, for the expanse of air is cruel, the sea a mass of hard specks, black from the steady gale, the wind ominiously from the eastnortheast; the tough, thin, burning, swirling snow spins down into the murderous waters.
14. In the dark the ship drove away from the wind and struck--not a reef or a rock but a sand bank; by night it was totally destroyed, lying against the Kentish knock. The ship's bows and swinging bottom beat against the bank, the breakers rolled against the deck-supports with destructive force; the ship's sail, compass, wheel, and propeller were rendered permanently unable to move or steer it.
15. For twelve hours hope had been gone; garbed in moruning clothes, its face was furrowed with tears and worry. A terrifying night closed in on a sad day; the lights in the distance were not rescue lights but only nautical signals; the sea began to wash people away to their deaths. The sails enclosed them as burial garments--their corpses shook in the fierce and thrusting winds.
16. A man who had been holding onto the rigging tried to save a terrified woman on the deck below; he put a rope around him but before he could descend he was thrown suddenly into the sea, for all his courage and seaman's hardiness. For hours his body could be seen bobbing through the white foam of the ocean. How could he resist the fullness of the rushing, surging wind, the heaving force of the water?
17. They fought against the cold which God sent--the dark side of his mercy--but were unable to resist. Some fell to the deck and were crushed, some into the ocean which drowned them, and the bodies of others were rolled by the lively winds over and over the wreckage. The night bellowed and howled its noises of the wind and collapsing ship, and the broken heart heard the shrieks of the despairing mob--children screamed uncomforted, women wailed--until the voice of a female lion, a prophetess, arose and cried out over the confused noises--the tongue of a virgin was a bell proclaiming truth.
18. My heart, source of my existence, you are moved within your skeleton, aren't you? An intense pang caused you to lurch, didn't it? You make words cry out from within me while I sit here alone. My emotional being, although by nature you are incorrigibly evil, yet you speak truths; why, you're shedding tears! such a softening, musical thumping you've made! What can be this rejoicing within me--this never aging happiness? the benefit you receive from your own self?
19. A nun was calling her master and mine, Christ. The seawater inside the ship swirls and pulls; the bitter, heedless, pummelling salt sea blinds her; but in that weather she sees one thing, concentrates on one sole expedient or contrivance: she raises herself up to speak to God, and her call rises over the tempest's howl to the men in the top of the rigging and tackle.
20. She was the chief nun of five from a sisterhood which wore coifs beneath their veils (hood-shaped caps). Two destructive agents have born the name "Deutschland"--the country and the ship. O evil, self-destroying world! But paradoxically both St. Gertrude, the lily of Christ, and the devouring beast Luther were from the same German town; from the beginning of all things we have experienced the interpenetration of evil and good: Cain and Abel drank from the same breasts.
21. They were banned by their homeland, hated by men for their loving spirit, rejected by the Rhine and murdered by the Thames. They were ground to bits by the sea, river, snow, and earth: but Orion of light, Christ, ruler of martyrs, you are over all, your sanctuary-destroying hands were weighing the worth of destruction; in your view the flakes of the storm were flowers falling--sweet heaven was falling on the dying.
22. The number five--the emblem, individual ability, reflection, and mysterious, obscure symbol of Christ's crucifixion.
Notice, man made this mark, and its message is--sacrificed.
But he himself imprints it in blood on his own,
Chosen before time, most valued, predestined and singled out.
It is the stigma, announcement and token, five-part symbol
For marking whiteness with red, purity with suffering.
(Alt: For indicating the possession of innocence, for giving the rose of martyrdom its intense and passionate red.)
23. May joy descend on you. St. Francis my father, for you were drawn to that being who was crucified; you became the embodiment of the pattern of Christ's wounds and the proof of his heavenly advent, with the twisted nail prints and sword gash in you! These daughters of yours (Franciscan nuns), five lives that formed a five-leaf flower honoring and blessing you, are carefully secured as sisters within the tempestuous ocean, bathing in the autumn kindness of God, destructive and glorious, breathing his burning gaze.
24. In the beloved west of England, on a hill within pasture-land, I was here at peace and securely indoors while they were devoured by the wind; she was calling to the black air surrounding her, to the breaking, foaming waves, the thick snow, and the trembling, clutching mass of passengers, "O Christ come swiftly"; she calls her death Christ; not only will her death be her cross, but she seees the instrumentality of Christ in her dying; she names (christens--pun) her fierce extremity by the name of God.
25. How majestic! what did she mean?
Breathe, (Life, Christ) you who are the overarching and first breath.
Did she cherish a death like that of Christ, her lover?
Breathe, incarnation of beautiful death (Christ). The men who woke you in that other season on the sea of Gennesareth with a "We are perishing" were of a different mind; they were terrified and desired life. Or did she then cry for her reward and triumph, more eager for comfort because the struggle was sharp?
(Douay version--John--they went across the sea towards Capharnun;
Matthew--crossed over sea of Galilee to Genesar;
Mark--came to country of the Gerasenes;
Luke--country of Gerasenes, opposite Galilee)
26. For how the grey morning light, mined deeply and embraced by the earth, stands poised far off, the approach of the blue-jay colored skies of varicolored and stripped May, the heights throbbing with blue and glowing with whitish clouds; or higher up, the night with tolling brightness and the blurred, soft Milky Way. What in comparison to your measurements is the ultimate good to be desired (how much loftier even than your height is the longed-for heaven), the rewards never seen, heard, nor comprehended?
27. It was not these sights that inspired her desire for death. Life's wearying, laborious processes, not the sudden, terrifying fear, cause the heavy, grieving heart to ask for the ease of death; also the gentle, emotional attraction of Christ's death is more evident when praying alone. It was something else which she deeply desired while suffering the winds' and ocean's monstrous buffeting and noise.
28. But how shall I describe what she saw--let me see, let me imagine faster--do you hit the sight of it? (can you see it exactly, clearly? See it hover, increasingly larger--There it is! Christ, he himself, the master, king, head: he was coming to remedy the desperate situation into which he had thrown her;
Act, handle, rule dead and living;
Let him, in whom she feels pride, move there triumphantly and powerfully, quickly settle and finish his judgment.
29. Lo! her heart was right, her eye singleminded. She read the meaning of the traumatic, jolting, inchoate night, understood its purpose and who conceived it, expressing it, how else, but by the name of him of whom heaven and earth, present and past, are an expression? Like Simon Peter her soul made confession of his identity. She was fastened onto the storm, as criminals were once dashed against the Tarpeian rock, yet as she was hurled about she became a light signal and token.
30. Jesus, son of a maiden and brightness to the heart, what feast followed the night you obtained honor and triumph from this nun's afffirming faith? the feast of the one sinless woman. Since she was immaculately conceived, it followed that the conception of her son should be likewise sinless; but here a human intensity, a word, the product of mind, comprehended, contained, and spoke outright your identity.
31. Well, in recompense for her longsuffering and sorrow she gained you, but pity the others.
My heart, go mourn more bitterly these uncomforted, unbelieving ones--but no, they were not left without assuagement of loss: let the quiet touch of the beautiful, joyfully skillful Aid and Perceiver--revealing, ah! a finespun light precision to which the innocent nun (Mary) could respond so completely--be the signal of redemption, and frighten these unthinking persons into seeking safety! Is the destruction of the ship in this way a harvest of souls, does the storm bring to You the food of human repentance (belief)?
32. I look with awe and respect to You, controller of tides, of the seas of old and the decay of seasons, the compression and stemming of the boundaries of water, its span, circumference and outer embankment; You are the overpowering, controlling, engulfing sea of a moving intelligence; the soil and rock of existence: divinity past all possession or comprehension, exalted behind death with power which notices but does not interfere, forsees but restrains itself.
waft--v. t. to carry lightly or smoothly through the air or over water
33. With a love which moves beneath darkness and extension (cmp. the harrowing of hell) for him who delays, with grace and compassion which travel beyond all oceans, a ship of safety for him who listens, a tunnel for rescuing those imprisoned in an extremity beyond prayer--those who repent with their final breath--Christ as a manifestation of God's mercy, our champion exalted from his descent into suffering, fetched the farthest territory in the tempest of his motion.
34. Shine forth emphatically, double-natured Word (Description/Emanation) of God, newly conceived and reincarnated within earth, the second person of our triune, powerful, terrifying Ruler,
You who were hurled from heaven, your emotions bestowed in human body, miraculously gathered tightly in a virgin, a fire flaming within Mary! His advent was not the terrorizing burning and darkness of judgment but compassionate, majestically rescuing his own creation; he was like rain released on the countryside rather than a destructive lightning bolt.
35. Woman, drowned near England, remember us in the paths of heavenly safety which are your reward. Oh grant that our Lord return again to English souls! Let him rise in us, spring up to brighten our groping stupidity and error, be a bright red-plumed dawn, increasing Britain's light as his government extends/continues, He who is our glory, boast, flower of passion, ruler, hero, and intercessor, the flame on the hearth of our hearth's love, the Lord of our enmassed, surging visions of knightly heroism. (!)