Sister, a sister calling
A master, her master and mine!―
And the inboard seas run swirling and hawling;
The rash smart sloggering brine
Blinds her; but she that weather sees one thing, one;
Has one fetch in her: she rears herself to divine
Ears, and the call of the tall nun
To the men in the tops and the tackle rode over the storm’s brawling.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins




The last verses in stanza 17 introduced the tall nun, the towering prophetess with the virginal tongue. Here we are back in that moment when her voice overshadow the roar from the storm and Hopkins notes how close they are, two servants serving the same Master, a Franciscan sister, a Jesuit brother.

In one early Hopkins biography the author John Pick writes: This seer Has one fetch [Dialect word meaning a deep painful breath or inspiration] in her: she rears herself to divine Ears… In heaven above Christ was waiting, waiting for her to respond to His grace, to flee to Him, “to the heart of the host”, to recognize in this trial a message for her to come to Him.

Her response is so clearly directed, her attention so undivided, so focused. She’s blinded but she can still see. Her faith in Christ overcomes the storm. I can’t help thinking of another boat on stormy waters:

And when he entered into the boat, his disciples followed him: And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves, but he was asleep. And they came to him, and awaked him, saying: Lord, save us, we perish. And Jesus saith to them: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Then rising up he commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm. But the men wondered, saying: What manner of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey him? (Matthew 8:23-27)



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 the first stanza.