Gerard M. Hopkins dedicated this poem to the happy memory of five Franciscan nuns exiles by the Falk Laws drowned between midnight and morning of Dec. 7th. 1875.

 

 

The Wreck of the Deutschland

By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Part the one

1.

Thou mastering me
God! Giver of breath and bread;
World’s strand, sway of the sea;
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh,
And after it almost unmade, what with dread,
Thy doing : and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.

 

 

 

When – after years of poetic silence – Gerard Hopkins begins to write poetry again, he begins with praising an all powerful God, not a cozy man in sandals, but the very great and almighty God. Our Lord and Master who rule our petty lives. And at the same time Hopkins is almost intimate, speaking of his very own flesh, God has bound all our own individual flesh. He speaks of his dread. His deep inner emotions… And he is personal, (perhaps even autobiographical) he speaks of being touched by God’s finger again, rediscovering Christ a second time. Being touched again could both refer to the power of God through an agonizing shipwreck but also, perhaps, about Hopkins rediscovering God through his conversion.

And it speaks to all of us: Everybody has always the fresh start that God’s grants us, as individuals, time and a time again. We can all, by God’s grace, be touched afresh, even though the touch is not always a gentle one.

This is actually an aspect on Hopkins poetry that I particularly like: The ability to follow different threads in his poems. E.g. strand which perhaps first leads the thoughts towards a beach with the surge of the rolling waves, the sway of the sea… – But then he speaks of bones being bound, as strand is a thread or a rope, how God binds us to our flesh… having commando over the sea and over life and death, God is the strand who sway the seas… Hopkins is a master of parallel readings.

Btw. wouldn’t this stanza work as an epitaph?

 

 

During lent I will publish the stanzas from the Wreck of the Deutschland, one by one. Sometimes with a small commentary or with some aspect about the poem. Hopefully someone will be able to use this as a form of prayer during Lent.
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