2.

I did say yes
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.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

 

 

 

This is truly a stanza fit for lent: Strained bodies, souls crippled by pain. πŸ˜‰

God gave us free will so we would be able to choose accepting His presence or distance ourself away. To me the text above is about that very moment when one chooses God. Disregarding comfort or personal strive. Saying yes through inner storm. Saying yes through thy terror, O Christ!

I imagine a body in agony, on the cold stone floor, stone cold walls, in front of the altar, in the middle of the night: Yes.

 

The years around the 1870’s is also the moment when modern poetry was born. This poem is the first with Hopkins new pattern of rhythm, which he here developed into a regular and permanent principle of scansion mainly based on stresses rather than a special required foot. This “Sprung rhythm”, let him write more freely, yet having the benefits of a regular rhythmic pattern.

He explained the necessity of this new rhythm to his friend Robert Bridges, in a letter dated Aug. 21 1877, using the stanza above as an example:

Why do I employ sprung rhythm at all? Because it is the nearest to the rhythm of prose, that is the native and natural rhythm of speech, the least forced, the most rethorical and emphatic of all possible rhythms, combining, as it seems to me, opposite and, one wd. have thought, incompatible excellences, markedness of rhythm – that is rhythm’s self – and naturalness of expression – for why, if it is forcible in prose to say ‘lashed rod’, am I obliged to weaken this in verse, which ought to be stronger, not weaker, into ‘lΓ‘shed birch-rod’ or something?

My verse is less to be read than heard, as I have told you before; it is oratorical, that is the rhythm is so.

 

 

 

 

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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