Ah! there was a heart right!
There was single eye!
Read the unshapeable shock night
And knew the who and the why;
Wording it how but by him that present and past,
Heaven and earth are word of, worded by? ―
The Simon Peter of a soul! to the blast
Tarpeian-fast, but a blown beacon of light.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins




The stumbling words from the last stanza is now transformed in to the unshapeable picture. In Hopkins poetry there is no major difference between form and substance and both the horror and the complexity of the scene is, as, impossible to fully express.

And the poem is coming to an end, Father Hopkins is giving us his conclusion: God was there. The sacred heart, the single all-seeing eye. The ever-present eye of Providence. Or the heart and the eye refers to that child of God, the calling nun, who was there and saw it all. Who interpreted the disaster Christocentric. It is the “To find God in all things and all things in God” of Ignatian Spirituality. This world as Word of God. (Hopkins dwells on different meaning of the word word: Wording it in line 5 as interpreting it, word of in line 6 as expression of, worded by as given meaning by).

In his commentaries to the Spiritual Exercises father Hopkins writes about the same subject. God’s utterance of himself in himself is God the Word, outside himself is this world. This world then is word, expression, news, of God. Therefore it’s end, its purpose, its purport, its meaning, is God, and its life or work to name and praise him. The greatest praise that man can give is to re-enact the Incarnation and Redemption. This is done by the great sacrifice. And as father Hopkins continued: To contribute then to that sacrifice is the end for which man was made.

This is what the sister did through her calling. She knew the how and the why, and stood firm in the center of a storm. Father Robert R. Boyle S.J. described this as. She saw Christ in the storm and ‘worded it’ by Him, as Simon Peter had seen the Godhead in the man Jesus before him, and had worded his vision for the ages. She was like Peter, too, in being a rock amid the storm, like the Tarpeian rock at Rome.

The Tarpeian Rock was the infamous execution place outside of Rome not far from where the Vatican now lies. Just as the dreadful place of the imprisonment of Peter and Paul was transformed into the Capital of the Church, the Scene of the wreck was transformed to a scene of absolute divinity.



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.