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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Diving in the Wreck of the Deutschland

Fr. Jim of Dappled Things pulls together a whole series of posts on GMH's longest and most darkly dazzling poem. Perry Lorenzo's explication is rich and elaborate, like the poem itself:

Perhaps we might unlock the puzzle of this dense stanza (and the whole poem) if we remember that it is telling a tale on three levels---

-the literal tale of the actual wreck of the ship The Deutschland, and the drowning of the Nuns, and the heroic call of the Tall Nun

-the allegorical tale of modern Europe, of the West in wreck, of Germany in particular as the country of rebellion against God, of the attempt to destroy the Church, of the witness of modern Christians

-the moral tale of the interior life of Hopkins the poet himself, both as an artist and as a Christian, which seems to be most of all the poem’s concern, given the lengthy Part One which is a Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises of the whole

The Wreck of the Deutschland has always been seen as a forbidding and difficult poem - in fact, it could almost be the prototype of the Difficult Poem which ruled the 20th century. But like the Apocalypse, it sweeps you away with its strangeness and beauty whether you understand it or not. It was stanzas like this that made me love Hopkins:

   Dame, at our door
          Drowned, and among our shoals,
   Remember us in the roads, the heaven-haven of the Reward:
          Our King back, oh, upon English souls!
Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east,
More brightening her, rare-dear Britain, as his reign rolls,
        Pride, rose, prince, hero of us, high-priest,
Our hearts’ charity’s hearth’s fire, our thoughts’ chivalry’s throng’s Lord.

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