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Hopkins loved Our Lady. I therefore dedicate these pages to her namesake, my beloved daughter, Mary. Hopkins aged 15 Hopkins as a Jesuit Priest


His Life through his Poetry

Previous Track: His Early Poetry

TRACK 1: Introduction to The Wreck of the Deutschland

Before deciding to become a priest, he had given up writing poetry. He felt it was inconsistent with the religious life, but then, in his own words:

When in the winter of 1875 the Deutschland was wrecked in the mouth of the Thames and five Franciscan nuns, exiles from Germany…aboard of her were drowned, I read the account in the Times.

The Deutschland wrecked on the Kentish Knock sandbank

The Times 11th December 1875:

"At 2 a.m. Captain Brickenstein, knowing with rising tide the ship would be waterlogged, ordered all the passengers to come on deck. Most of them obeyed the summons at once.

"Others lingered below until it was too late. Some of them ill, weak despairing of life even on deck resolved to stay in their cabins and meet death with out any further struggle to evade it .

"After 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning a scene of horror was witnessed. Some passengers clustered for safety within or upon the wheel house and on top of other slight structures on deck.

"Most of the crew and many of the emigrants went into the rigging where they were safe enough as long as they could maintain their hold.

"But the intense cold and long exposure told a tale.

The Wreck of the Deutschland by Sean Street

"The purser of the ship though a strong man relaxed his grasp and fell into the sea. Women and children and men were one by one swept away from their shelters on the deck.

"Five German nuns whose bodies are now in the dead house here, clasped hands and were drowned together, the chief sister a gaunt woman six feet high calling out loudly and often :

“'Oh Christ! come quickly!' until the end came."

I was affected by the account and happening to say so to my rector he said that he wished someone would write a poem on the subject. On this hint I set to work and, though my hand was out at first, produced one.

I had long had haunting my ear the echo of a new rhythm:

TRACK 2: The Wreck of the Deutschland

Stanza 1 read by Paul Scofield 1972
reading Stanza 1
1	                Thóu màstering mé
                    Gòd ! gíver of bréath and bréad;
           Wórld's stránd, swáy of the séa;
                   Lórd of líving and déad;
     Thou hast bóund bónes and véins in me, fástened me flésh,
     And áfter it álmost únmade, whát with dréad,
            Thy dóing : and dóst thou tóuch me afrésh ?
Óver  ágain I féel thy fínger and fínd thée.

2	        I did say yes
read by Paul Scofield 1972
reads the
whole poem
O at lightning and lashed rod; Thou heardst me truer than tongue confess Thy terror, O Christ, O God; Thou knowest the walls, altar and hour and night: The swoon of a heart that the sweep and the hurl of thee trod Hard down with a horror of height: And the midriff astrain with leaning of, laced with fire of stress. 3 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 grace. 4 I am soft sift In an hourglass--at the wall Fast, but mined with a motion, a drift, And it crowds and 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. 5 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 and wonder, His mystery must be instressed, stressed; For I greet him the days I meet him, and bless when I understand. 6 Not out of his bliss Springs the stress felt Nor first from heaven (and few know this) Swings the stroke dealt-- Stroke and a stress that stars and storms deliver, That guilt is hushed by, hearts are flushed by and melt-- But it rides time like riding a river (And here the faithful waver, the faithless fable and miss), 7 It dates from day Of his going in Galilee; Warm-laid grave of a womb-life grey; Manger, maiden's knee; The dense and the driven Passion, and frightful sweat; Thence the discharge of it, there its swelling to be, Though felt before, though in high flood yet-- What none would have known of it, only the heart, being hard at bay, 8 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. 9 Be adored among men, God, three-numberèd form; Wring thy rebel, dogged in den, Man's malice, with wrecking and storm. Beyond saying sweet, past telling of tongue, Thou art lightning and love, I found it, a winter and warm; Father and fondler of heart thou hast wrung: Hast thy dark descending and most art merciful then. 10 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 at once, as once at a crash Paul, Or as Austin, a lingering-out sweet skill, Make mércy in all of us, out of us all Mastery, but be adored, but be adored King. PART THE SECOND 11 Sóme fìnd me a swórd; sóme The flánge and the ráil ; fláme Fáng, or flóod goes Déath on drúm, And stórms búgle his fáme. But wé dréam we are róoted in éarth - Dúst ! Flésh fàlls within sight of us, wé, though our flówer the sáme, Wáve with the méadow, forgét that there múst The: sóur scýthe crínge, and the bléar sháre cóme. 12 On Saturday sailed from Bremen, American-outward-bound, Take settler and 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 did the dark side of the bay of thy blessing Not vault them, the million of rounds of thy mercy not reeve even them in? 13 Ínto the snów she sweéps, Húrling the háven behínd, The Déutschland, on Súnday, and só the sky keéps For the ínfinite aír is unkínd, And the sea flint-flake, black-backed in the regular blow, Sitting Eastnortheast, in cursed quarter, the wind; Wiry and white-fiery and whirlwind-swivellèd snow Spins to the widow-making unchilding unfathering deeps. 14 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 and the ride of her keel: The breakers rolled on her beam with ruinous shock; And canvas and compass, the whorl and the wheel Idle for ever to waft her or wind her with, these she endured. 15 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 and lightship, shone, And lives at last were washing away: To the shrouds they took,--they shook in the hurling and horrible airs. 16 One stirred from the rigging to save The wild woman-kind below, With a rope's end round the man, handy and brave-- He was pitched to his death at a blow, For all his dreadnought breast and braids of thew: They could tell him for hours, dandled the to and fro Through the cobbled foam-fleece, what could he do With the burl of the fountains of air, buck and the flood of the wave? 17 They fought with God's cold-- And they could not and 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. 18 Ah, tóuched in your bówer of bóne Are you ! túrned for an éxquisite smárt Have you ! máke words bréak from me hére all alóne Do you !-móther of béing in me, héart . O unteachably after evil, but uttering truth, Why, tears! is it? tears; such a melting, a madrigal start! Never-eldering revel and river of youth, What can it be, this glee? the good you have there of your own? 19 Sister, a sister calling A master, her master and mine!-- And the inboard seas run swirling and hawling; The rash smart sloggering brine Blinds her; but she that weather sees one thing, one; Has one fetch in her: she rears herself to divine Ears, and the call of the tall nun To the men in the tops and the tackle rode over the storm's brawling. 20 She was first of a five and came Of a coifèd sisterhood. (O Deutschland, double a desperate name! O world wide of its good! But Gertrude, lily, and Luther, are two of a town, Christ's lily and 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.) 21 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 and earth Gnashed: but thou art above, thou Orion of light; Thy unchancelling poising palms were weighing the worth, Thou martyr-master: in thy sight Storm flakes were scroll-leaved flowers, lily showers--sweet heaven was astrew in them. 22 Five! the finding and 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 prizèd and priced-- Stigma, signal, cinquefoil token For lettering of the lamb's fleece, ruddying of the rose-flake. 23 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! and these thy daughters And five-livèd and leavèd favour and pride, Are sisterly sealed in wild waters, To bathe in his fall-gold mercies, to breathe in his all-fire glances. 24 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 wild-worn Best. 25 The majesty! what did she mean? Breathe, arch and original Breath. Is it love in her of the being as her lover had been? Breathe, body of lovely Death. They were else-minded then, altogether, the men Woke thee with a we are perishing in the weather of Gennesareth. Or is it that she cried for the crown then, The keener to come at the comfort for feeling the combating keen? 26 For how to the heart's cheering The down-dogged ground-hugged grey Hovers off, the jay-blue heavens appearing Of pied and peeled May! Blue-beating and hoary-glow height; or night, still higher, With belled fire and 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 hearing? 27 No, but it was not these. The jading and jar of the cart, Time's tasking, it is fathers that asking for ease Of the sodden-with-its-sorrowing heart, Not danger, electrical horror; then further it finds The appéaling of the | Pássion is | ténd'erer in | práyer apart: Other, I gather, in measure her mind's Burden, in wind's burly and beat of endragonèd seas. 28 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; Dó, deàl, lórd it with líving and déad; Let him ride, her pride, in his triumph, despatch and have done with his doom there. 29 Ah! there was a heart right! There was single eye! Read the unshapeable shock night And knew the who and the why; Wording it how but by him that present and past, Heaven and earth are word of, worded by?-- The Simon Peter of a soul! to the blast Tarpeian-fast, but a blown beacon of light. 30 Jésu, héart's líght, Jésu, máid's són, Whát was the féast fóllowed the níght Thou hadst glóry of thís nún ? Feast of the one woman without stain. For so conceived, so to conceive thee is done; But here was heart-throe, birth of a brain, Word, that heard and kept thee and uttered thee outright. 31 Well, shé has thée for the páin, for the Pátience ; but píty of the rést of them ! Héart, go and bléed at a bítterer véin for the Cómfortless únconféssed of them-" Nó not uncómforted : lóvely-felícitous Próvidence, Fínger of a ténder of, O of a féathery délicacy, the bréast of the Máiden could obéy so, be a béll to, ring óf it, and Stártle the poor shéep back ! is the shípwrack then a hárvest, does témpest carry the gráin for thee ? 32 I admire thee, master of the tides, Of the Yore-flood, of the year's fall; The recurb and the recovery of the gulfs sides, The girth of it and the wharf of it and the wall; Stanching, quenching ocean of a motionable mind; Ground of being, and granite of it: past all Grasp God, throned behind Death with a sovereignty that heeds but hides, bodes but abides; 33 With a mercy that outrides The all of water, an ark For the listener; for the lingerer with a love glides Lower than death and the dark; A vein for the visiting of the past-prayer, pent in prison, The-last-breath penitent spirits--the uttermost mark Our passion-plungèd giant risen, The Christ of the Father compassionate, fetched in the storm of his strides. 34 Now burn, new born to the world, Doubled-naturèd name, The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled Miracle-in-Mary-of-flame, Mid-numbered 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 shower, let flash to the shire, not a lightning of fire hard-hurled. 35 Dame, at our door Drowned, and among our shoals, Remember us in thes roads, the heaven-haven of the Reward: Our King back, oh, upon English souls! Let him éaster in us, be a | dáyspring to the | dímness of us, be a | crímson-cresseted | éast, More brightening her, rare-dear Britain, as his reign rolls, Pride, rose, prince, hero of us, high-priest, Our hearts' charity's hearth's fire, our thoughts' chivalry's throng's Lord.

The next track: The Starlight Night, Hurrahing in the Harvest

Introduction to this Hopkins Feature

Gerard Manley Hopkins Workshop

Home Page

We recommend the Oxford Edition and in particular Sean Street's account of The Wreck of the Deutschland, which he was inspired to write from hearing my production of Paul Scofield's reading for BBC Radio 3.  We also highly recommend Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Study of Poetic Idiosyncrasy in Relation to Poetic Tradition by Professor Helen Gardner: