34.

Now burn, new born to the world,
Double-naturèd name,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
Miracle-in-Mary-of-flame,
Mid-numberèd He in three of the thunder-throne!
Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark as he came;
Kind, but royally reclaiming his own;
A released shower, let flash to the shire, not a lightning of fire hard-hurled.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

 

 

 

This stanza deals with the aspect of the double nature of God the Word, the Incarnation of the mid-numbered in the Holy Trinity: Christ, the Son.

To Hopkins the sound of words connected their meaning to each another and he believed their sound also had bearing for their meaning. In his early note-books (1862-1863) long lists of similar sounding words and intricate descriptions of their kinship is found: Grind, gride, gird, grit, groat, grate, greet. – Crook, crank, kranke, crick, cranky. – Flick, fillip, flip, fleck, flake. A popular belief in Gerard Hopkins time was the onomatopoetic origin of many words and their roots (e.g. Frederic Farrar’s Essay on the Origin of Language from 1860). This interest for the affinity of words might of course also be due to his studies in the classical languages which of course involves lists of roots and derived meanings from Greek and Latin.

Hence, the similarity of the word “son” and the word “sun” was, in Hopkins mind, most probably charged with deep meaning. For instance, a possible interpretation of the phrase double-natured name might be of that precise relationship, the Son/sun: Christ the light as the burning light of the world. The Son is – through the nun – newly manifested in the world again, just as the morning sun appears in the dark of the night. The Son/sun is like a new born to this world. This is how Hopkins can ask a new born to burn for us: – It is Christ, the morning sun.

The simile of the Son as the sun may be interpreted in the risen giant of stanza 33 and the cycle of the sun have connections to the master of the tides in stanza 32. The Yore-flood of Stanza 32 can also be related to the darkness and primal waters of Genesis. Christ, the Son/sun as the emerging light of the Deluge:

In the beginning God created heaven, and earth. And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters. And God said: Be light made. And light was made. And God saw the light that it was good; and he divided the light from the darkness. And he called the light Day, and the darkness Night; and there was evening and morning one day. (Genesis 1:1-5)

So when Hopkins mention the double-natured name, he is referring to the Word of God. It is actually the christening of the Son/sun as in the Gospel according to Saint John. The light of the creation of the world is Christ the Word: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)

In the Creed of the Catholic Church the naming of Christ is in close context with a description of the birth of Christ as a double nature of both True God and True Man: And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages; God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father; through Whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation descended from the heavens,and was made flesh by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. (The Nicene Creed)

This is the passage of the solemn bow (In Roman Catholic liturgy the congregation bows during the Incarnation reference in the Credo) where the most holy of mysteries are described: The Son of the trinity enclosed in the womb of Mary. Hopkins described it as The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled. And he describes the immaculate conception as the Miracle-in-Mary-of-flame – a paraphrase of the maid as the Queen of Heaven: The woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. (Apocalypse 12:1).

Then there is the double nature of the life Christ lived: His Death is a part of His Heavenly Birth – His Divine Birth is incorporated with the Divine Passion. He was also crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; suffered, and was buried; on the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven. (The Nicene Creed)

And as the Sun follows its path Christ will reappear after a time of darkness on earth. This second arrival is described in the book of Revelations. It also speaks of the double-natured name of God: His name is both related to the Birth of Christ and to both the Creation and the End of the world.

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called faithful and true, and with justice doth he judge and fight. And his eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many diadems, and he had a name written, which no man knoweth but himself. And he was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood; and his name is called, THE WORD OF GOD. (Apocalypse 19:11-13)

Hopkins prays for the second coming of Jesus (to the shire = England) will not be in the dooms-day dazzle (as in the terror of the last Judgment) nor in the dark as he came (as in the obscurity of the first coming of Jesus) but as a released shower of Grace, of Divine kindness. Christ will reappear on Judgment day and he will be royally reclaiming (as in the cycle of the sun where it reclaims light over darkness every morning) in full blown majesty, in his thunder-throne

And then Christ will be showing His double nature in yet another way: The judge is also the Savior – The Savior is also the Judge.

And shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, of Whose kingdom there shall be no end. (The Nicene Creed)

 

 

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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