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..

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins




Its not always easy reading Hopkins (but almost always rewarding). In the previous stanza he used a word in Welsh, in this he uses a term he have invented himself: Instress.

There are actually two main terms that Hopkins used over and over in his correspondence as well as in journals and notebooks: Inscape and Instress. They are very much related to each other and to the romantic, and post-romantic view on art and artists. Hopkins meant that each thing in nature had an inscape, a oneness, or wholeness of it’s own being. The inscape is the inner shape of an entity and it’s parts. The word instress is how this inscape is perceived and upheld.

Alison Salloway points out in her book Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Victorian Temper how deeply rooted Hopkins where in the Victorian society. Mathew Arnold, who was a professor of poetry while Hopkins studied in Oxford, meant that an artist must report objectively about what he saw, but this was not enough, according to Arnold: The artist must shape their report with their talent. He must be both illuminative and accurate. He must put an active effort in response towards God’s creation. According to Arnold most 1800 century artist did not see things, even fewer responded properly.

The perhaps most important aesthetic in England during these years was John Ruskin (who later got the first chair of aesthetics in Oxford). Ruskin stressed, just as Arnold, both the accurate and the exhilarated copying of nature. This artistic alchemy served a ultimate purpose: to praise God. According to the common Victorian gentleman this was the most accurate response to God’s creation and to me this is what stanza 5 is dealing with: The response towards God when observing the world. For example, Wafting him out of it is a gentle gesture of the tender feeling towards Christ.

Acknowledging God’s presence in all things, is something we all should put more effort into doing. Hopkins even tells us how to do this: Instress and stress, clarify and proclaim…

– Glory be to God: To greet him is to meet him.



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.