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 mercy in all of us, out of us all
Mastery, but be adored, but be adored King.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

 

 

 

This the second half of the prayer continues the play of paradoxes. or rather contrasts. The forging of will as a blacksmith or alluring like a spring day.

God forged Saul’s will with fire. His conversion was as a crash (of lightning and love): And as he went on his journey, it came to pass that he drew nigh to Damascus; and suddenly a light from heaven shined round about him. And falling on the ground, he heard a voice saying to him: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Who said: Who art thou, Lord? And he: I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the goad. And he trembling and astonished, said: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said to him: Arise, and go into the city, and there it shall be told thee what thou must do. Now the men who went in company with him, stood amazed, hearing indeed a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. But they leading him by the hands, brought him to Damascus. And he was there three days, without sight, and he did neither eat nor drink.(Acts 9:3-9)

Austin refers to St Augustine of Hippo. Perhaps you could say that he was forged by time; as in seasons; as in the sweet force of spring. In his Confessions we can read about his conversion. It was a movement in slow pace with the prayers of his mother leading the way over the years until he finally found his faith: I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo, I heard the voice as of a boy or girl, I know not which, coming from a neighbouring house, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; take up and read.” Immediately my countenance was changed, and I began most earnestly to consider whether it was usual for children in any kind of game to sing such words; nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So, restraining the torrent of my tears, I rose up, interpreting it no other way than as a command to me from Heaven to open the book, and to read the first chapter I should light upon. (Confessions VIII:12)

Hopkins prays for our conversion and that we will evangelize. He prays that mercy be sent through us. That God gives us grace and that we may imitate him: in all of us, out of us all. God is mastering us, lets pray for mercy to adore him.

And so ends part one of this multithreaded poem.

 

 

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. Click here to get to stanza 1.
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