For how to the heart’s cheering
The down-dugged ground-hugged grey
Hovers off, the jay-blue heavens appearing
Of pied and peeled May!
Blue-beating and hoary-glow height; or night, still higher,
With belled fire and the moth-soft Milky Way,
What by your measure is the heaven of desire,
The treasure never eyesight got, nor was ever guessed what for the hearing?

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins




Most of us will meet death full of worrying and doubt. We will die in despair and anguish, with regrets and anger… Dying is not an easy matter and we will fight our last fight for our eternal souls. This is why we asks Mary to pray for us at the hour of our death. In this stanza life, and our last hours in it is pictured as a firm layer of gray, which will finally be lifted in the very moment after our death. Like the spring follows winter: In time everything will be revealed to us.

How lovely it will be when you reach the other side! The gray mist will disappear, even though it’s so firm and steady right now, as if the ground itself hugged it and kept it down-dugged there. How happy a heart, when the fog finally lift and the beauty of spring is revealed. We are blind, but we will see.

The jay-blue heavens that follows the foggy gray and the blue-beating refers to the Most Blessed Virgin. In Catholic tradition blue is the color of celestial love and for the queen of heaven. Blue-beating of the heart is a poetic image associating Mary with the beating of the heart.

At the end of this stanza the poet speaks directly to us: How do you measure heaven? What is your image of something you cant look at and you can’t hear? This question echoes the first epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians and the answer lies in it: You can’t measure heaven by senses, neither carnal, nor wordly wisdom. The sensual man does not perceive the spirit of God, the spiritually minded man does.

Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, neither of the princes of this world that come to nought; But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, a wisdom which is hidden, which God ordained before the world, unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew; for if they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written: That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him. But to us God hath revealed them, by this Spirit. For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, but the spirit of a man that is in him? So the things also that are of God no man knoweth, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is of God; that we may know the things that are given us from God. Which things also we speak, not in the learned words of human wisdom; but in the doctrine of the Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand, because it is spiritually examined. But the spiritual man judgeth all things; and he himself is judged of no man. (1 Corinthians 2:6-15)





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.