Five! the finding and sake
And cipher of suffering Christ.
Mark, the mark is of man’s make
And the word of it Sacrificed.
But he scores it in scarlet himself on his own bespoken,
Before-time-taken, dearest prizèd and priced―
Stigma, signal, cinquefoil token
For lettering of the lamb’s fleece, ruddying of the rose-flake.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins




Five. Christ had five main wounds: the ones in each Foot, the wounds in each Hand, and the wound in His side. There where also five nuns: One for each wound. The nuns order was that of St Francis, A saint famous for his stigmata. The patron saint for nuns, Gertrude, also wore the stigmata. The gift of Stigmata is a grace of Christ where those he chooses receive Christ’s mark: both by invisible suffering and by visible wounds.

To more fully understand Hopkins perception of these kinds of signs or marks from God – it might be helpful to look at his understanding of the word sake, as a kind of opposite to inscape, (as in the inner being of things): It is the sake of ‘for the sake of’, forsake, namesake, keepsake. I mean by it the being a thing has outside itself, as a voice by it’s echo, a face by its reflection, a body by its shadow, a man by his name, fame, or memory, and also that in the thing by virtue of which especially it has this being abroad, and that is something distinctive, marked, specifically or individually speaking, as for a voice and echo clearness; for a reflected image light, brightness: for a shadow-casting body bulk; for a man genius, great achievements, amiability, and so on.

In this way the finding and sake refers to how we by discovering patterns can see reflections of God. We can cipher the suffering of Christ and this is one way God reveals himself to us. There are no difference between Stigmata on one person or – as on board the SS Deutschland – one Sister for each wound of Christ: – Because they are both sakes, they reflect the same supernatural truth. The Five Sisters are in themselves an open stigma: – They became the sacrificed word, the lettering of the lamb, The Stigma, signal, cinquefoil token. Each of them one wound on the body of Christ – as a gift.

It is Christ himself that inflict these wounds (in scarlet) on those most dear to him (his own bespoken). Compare these lines with the following words of St Paul in the Epistle to the Ephesians: As he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight in charity. Who hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto himself: according to the purpose of his will: Unto the praise of the glory of his grace, in which he hath graced us in his beloved son. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins, according to the riches of his grace.

One of the five wounds was however special: one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water (John 19:34). According to tradition the soldiers name was Longinus and he was converted by a drop of the precious blood spurting from the wound. It is easy to see this water as the holy waters issuing out from under the temple mentioned in the prophecy of Ezechiel.

The fifth wound with its life-giving, grace-bearing water, brings us back to the tall sister and the significance of her calling. She is the sake of the wound that flushed the man in stanza eight; that poured from the veins of the mountain voel in Stanza four, that spread Grace as tears from a melting heart in stanza eighteen. She is the sake of the wound that poured Grace over the world.


For those interested there are a Chaplet of the Five Wounds which was instigated by the Passionists as a means to promote devotion to the Passion of Christ in the hearts of the faithful. The chaplet is arranged in five sections of five beads each. On each bead one Glory be to the Father is said, and between the sections one Hail Mary in honor of the Sorrowful Virgin. During each of the sections the Wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ are piously meditated upon. (Pope Leo XII Dec. 20 1823)



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.