No, but it was not these.
The jading and jar of the cart,
Time’s tasking, it is fathers that asking for ease
Of the sodden-with-its-sorrowing heart,
Not danger, electrical horror; then further it finds
The appealing of the Passion is tenderer in prayer apart:
Other, I gather, in measure her mind’s
Burden, in wind’s burly and beat of endragonèd seas.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins




Hopkins concludes the three stanzas on how to interpret the Nuns calling: Perhaps it is not the dangers of the moment but rather the sorrows of a lifetime, that caused the nun to beg for ease, to pray for haste. Hopkins speaks of his own perception of life, his heart was a saddened one and he most probably suffered from repeated depressions. To make haste with life was probably not that of an unknown thought to Hopkins. The nun found Christ’s passion in her prayer and contemplation rather than in the electrical horrors of the moment.

I spoke earlier about Sulloways (among others) hypothesis about the poems connection with the Apocalypse. There is this part of it that I really love: It is speaking of Mary as the queen of heaven. She is clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

The next few lines after our queen is crowned in heaven, the dragon of the apocalypse appears: And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems. Just as the snake tricks Eve to loose her immortality with the fruit of the tree, God uses the chosen weapons: The second Eve gains her eternal life through the fruit of the tree cross. The war between God and Satan is fought through The Eve, The Woman: And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the river, which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was angry against the woman: and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. And he stood upon the sand of the sea.

The thirteen chapter of the Apocalypse begins: And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten diadems, and upon his heads names of blasphemy.

As I have previously mentioned, Ruskin was of great importance for Hopkins and Ruskin idolized Turner. Paintings such as “The Steamer in a snow storm” and The slave ship might have been in the mind of Hopkins. You might want to compare The poem with Turners paintings and with how Ruskin described them: But I think the noblest sea that Turner has ever painted, and, if so, the noblest certainly ever painted by man, is that of The Slave Ship, the chief Academy picture of the exhibition of 1840. It is a sunset on the Atlantic after prolonged storm; but the storm is partially lulled, and the torn and streaming rain-clouds are moving in scarlet lines to lose them selves in the hollow of the night. The whole surface of sea included in the picture is divided into two ridges of enormous swell, not high nor local, but a low, broad heaving of the whole ocean, like the lifting of its bosom by deep-drawn breath after the torture of the storm. Between these two ridges the fire of the sunset falls along the trough of the sea, dyeing it with an awful but glorious light, the intense and lurid splendor which burns like gold and bathes like blood. Along this fiery path and valley the tossing waves by which the swell of the sea is restlessly divided lift themselves in dark, indefinite, fantastic forms, each casting a faint and ghastly shadow behind it along the illumined foam. They do not rise everywhere, but three or four together in wild groups, fitfully and furiously, as the under-strength of the swell compels or permits them; leaving between them treacherous spaces of level and whirling water, now lighted with green and lamp-like fire, now flashing back the gold df the declining sun, now fearfully dyed from above with the un distinguishable images of the burning clouds, which fall upon them in flakes of crimson and scarlet and give to the reckless 5 waves the added motion of their own fiery flying. (John Ruskin Modern Painters I, 1843)

It is not known if and what Hopkins saw of Turner’s paintings, but he surely read about it in Ruskin’s Modern Painters. Especially the slave ship is interesting as Ruskin connects it to the Apocalypse. Sulloway points out the use of the colors red, white and gold, but further more, the stormy seas both in Turners painting, as well as Hopkins Poem incorporates an apocalyptic dragon in the sea. The fiery-flying whitecaps in Ruskin becomes the Wiry and white-fiery and whirlwind-swivellèd snow in Stanza 13 of the wreck. Ruskin’s flakes of crimson and scarlet becomes rose-flake snowdrops in the Wreck. The sea-beast of the Slave ship painting becomes the endragoned seas, just as in the revelation of the Apocalypse: On the final day they will meet again: The Blue Queen of heaven and the dragon of the seas.




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.