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.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

 

 

 

I see this rather odd metaphor as an conclusion on the theme of divine stress from stanza six and seven.

I picture it as an image of Christ on the Cross: In the fullness of time when Christ came, when the Word, at last, was made Flesh – like a riped sloe ready to burst, with sweet fruit flesh on a bitter tree… And the piercing in Christs side which poured His blood, in an outburst, on the world. Gush! – flush the man, whether we wants to or not. Standing at Christ’s feet. Brimming of Grace…

This is the ultimate gift, inviting man to his own redemption and salvation. This is what through all times was awaited (as in stanza seven). Not searching for explanations by blaming Satan or an alleged lack of God (as in stanza six). We should not confuse worldly wealth and prosperity with the heavenly Grace from God.

In a commentary on the Spiritual Exercises Hopkins wrote in 1880 about his understanding of grace as a gift from God: For grace is any action, activity, on Gods part by which, in creating or after creating, he carries the creature to or towards the end of it’s being, which is its self-sacrifice to God and its salvation. It is, I say, any such activity on God’s part; so that so far as this action or activity is God’s it is divine stress, holy spirit, and, as all is done through Christ, Christ’s spirit.

The Grace Christ sends us is an interior supernatural gift, given for our own salvation. It is the Grace to imitate him, the hero of Calvary. And this is what good Christians have done ever since: Never ask if meaning it, wanting it, warned of it―men go. The redemptive grace that God bestows on us gives our life meaning and helps us focus on the true purpose of our lives.

In the mid-1400s Thomas à Kempis wrote in the Imitatio Christi: Wherever you are, wherever you go, you are miserable unless you turn to God. So why be dismayed when things do not happen as you wish and desire? Is there anyone who has everything as he wishes? No—neither I, nor you, nor any man on earth. There is no one in the world, be he Pope or king, who does not suffer trial and anguish. Who is the better off then? Surely, it is the man who will suffer something for God.

Let’s be out with it.

 

 

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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