Part the second

11.

‘Some find me a sword; some
The flange and the rail; flame,
Fang, or flood’ goes Death on drum,
And storms bugle his fame.
But wé dream we are rooted in earth―Dust!
Flesh falls within sight of us, we, though our flower the same,
Wave with the meadow, forget that there must
The sour scythe cringe, and the blear share come.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

 

 

 

The nineteen century was a century of change, Hopkins got his news from newspapers, trains where beginning to change the landscape. The Industrial Revolution where spinning faster and faster…

The spinning wheels of modern times (flange and the rail) must have seen as a predator (with fangs) just as a stormy ocean might seem like one. Both fang and flood causes death to man (drumming it out like crying with a loud voice). And still man faces end of life in a heedless manner… As we all would just keep on living here on this earth, (like rooted here forever) – When in fact, in the end, we will all be Dust. We live our life careless of what will come, one day we will be judged, and even though we see and hear death all the time all around us: We don’t seem to bother us with it though we must actively ask for forgiveness to be able to attain it.

Instead we forget that the meadow of our lives will be reaped – as in by the Reaper – or Son of Man – with a scythe. The ploughshare will overturn and bury the meadow.

The poem is echoing Death and the Apocalypse and in this stanza it’s quite evident, with it’s swords and fires, floods and beasts. I believe this stanza strikes a chord for the whole of the second part, something to murmur through the rest of the poem, just as the apocalyptic theme will. In part two we will witness a metamorphose from the harvest of death to that of life.

And I saw, and behold a white cloud; and upon the cloud one sitting like to the Son of man, having on his head a crown of gold, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the temple crying with a loud voice to him that sat upon the cloud: Thrust in thy sickle, and reap, because the hour is come to reap: for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust his sickle into the earth, and the earth was reaped.

And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire; and he cried with a loud voice to him that had the sharp sickle, saying: Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vineyard of the earth; because the grapes thereof are ripe. And the angel thrust in his sharp sickle into the earth, and gathered the vineyard of the earth, and cast it into the great press of the wrath of God: And the press was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

(Apocalypse 14:14-20)

 

 

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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