Joy fall to thee, father Francis,
Drawn to the Life that died;
With the gnarls of the nails in thee, niche of the lance, his
Lovescape crucifed
And seal of his seraph-arrival! and these thy daughters
And five-livèd and leavèd favour and pride,
Are sisterly sealed in wild waters,
To bathe in his fall-gold mercies, to breathe in his all-fire glances.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins




The nuns drowning is pictured together with their own St Francis of Assisi. Hopkins continues the theme of sake – things being outside of itself – and stigmata. St Francis was the father of the five nuns order. He must have felt bliss when he received the stigmata, the joy must have fell on him in bearing the scape of the life that died, marks of the nails and the niche of the lance. The scape is a Lovescape, the visible pattern of God’s love (as in the marks from being crucified for us).

The seal of his seraph-arrival refers to when St Francis first had the mark of Christs wounds. During a 40 days fasting in preparation for Michaelmas the suffering of Christ became the great focus for St Francis. On the feast of Exaltation of the Cross – while praying on the mountainside of Monte Penna (La Verna) in the Tuscan Apennines – he had a vision of a seraph with six wings carrying the image of a man crucified. After the vision he found the stigma in the hands, feet and side, perfectly corresponding to the wounds that Christ had received.

So the Lovescape of Christ’s suffering appeared both in the wounds of St Francis and on the the Franciscan daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus. They were floating like rose leafs – The Cinquefoil (stanza 22) may also refer to a five petaled rose and in this line the rose is leaved – in the wild waters. Bathing in the terrible Grace of Christs suffering like a sisterly seal, like Fall-gold mercies. They lived and leaved in wild waters, in his all-fire glances.

In the last chapter of her book “Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Victorian Temper” Allison G Sulloway has a hypothesis that the Wreck of Deutchland is interlinked with the revelation, from beginning to end. She writes: Whenever an angel appears before St John in his dream, to announce destruction at sea, the prophecy is accompanied by the fire-blood-water imagery of red and white. When gold is combined with the red and white, St John is indicating the divine element present in the destructive plan.

In this stanza we inherit the scarlet red rose from the previous stanza by the image of the five-lived and leaved favour. We also inherit the white from the previous snow that whirls around. In this stanza the fall gold is introduced: So we got red and white and Gold, we got the blood from the stigmata, the waters and the all-fire. Hopkins uses the coloring from the Apocalypse:

And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks: And in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. And his head and his hairs were white, as white wool, and as snow, and his eyes were as a flame of fire, And his feet like unto fine brass, as in a burning furnace. And his voice as the sound of many waters. (Apocalypse 1:12)



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.