33.

With a mercy that outrides
The all of water, an ark
For the listener; for the lingerer with a love glides
Lower than death and the dark;
A vein for the visiting of the past-prayer, pent in prison,
The-last-breath penitent spirits―the uttermost mark
Our passion-plungèd giant risen,
The Christ of the Father compassionate, fetched in the storm of his strides.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

 

 

 

In stanza 31 we had a feathery delicacy that led the way home like Noahs dove. In stanza 32 we had the yore-flood of the Deluge and here the SS Deutschland is compared with an ark, as an continuation of the nuns calling as a bell summoning lost souls. Christ as a medium, the Mediator, a vein carrying the force of life through his Passion.

The ark was carrying the creatures Lower than death and the dark:

(As it is written: For thy sake we are put to death all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.) But in all these things we overcome, because of him that hath loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:36-39)

And perhaps here Hopkins is using the interpretation of the ark as an image for the “Unam Sanctam et Catholicam Ecclesiam”, as Pope Pius IX stated in the allocution “Singulari quadam” December 9:th 1854: For, it must be held by faith that outside the Apostolic Roman Church, no one can be saved; that this is the only ark of salvation; that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood; but, on the other hand, it is necessary to hold for certain that they who labor in ignorance of the true religion, if this ignorance is invincible, are not stained by any guilt in this matter in the eyes of God. Now, in truth, who would arrogate so much to himself as to mark the limits of such an ignorance, because of the nature and variety of peoples, regions, innate dispositions, and of so many other things? For, in truth, when released from these corporeal chains “we shall see God as He is” [1 John 3:2], we shall understand perfectly by how close and beautiful a bond divine mercy and justice are united; but, as long as we are on earth, weighed down by this mortal mass which blunts the soul, let us hold most firmly that, in accordance with Catholic teaching, there is “one God, one faith, one baptism” [Eph. 4:5]; it is unlawful to proceed further in inquiry.

These souls that might have been saved as an cause of the wreckage would have been The-last-breath penitent spirits saved through the existence of Purgatory. In the first epistle of Saint Peter it is said: Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust: that he might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit, In which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison: Which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. (1 Peter 3:18-20)

Traditionally this part of the Bible is seen as a proof of a third place, or middle state of souls: for these spirits in prison, to whom Christ went to preach, after his death, were not in heaven; nor yet in the hell of the damned: because heaven is no prison: and Christ did not go to preach to the damned. (Commentary Douay-Rheims)

The image of the wreckage, may be the wrecks of disasters of Man and Nature or inner storms of wrecked souls. However these the uttermost souls are being saved from the brink of disaster. This is the uttermost mark of Christ, the Redeemer.

 

 

During Lent and Easter 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.
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