Gerard Manley Hopkins Poetry: British Analysis
In 1875, a number of Roman Catholic religious people had been driven out of Germany by the Falck Laws. In the winter of that year, five exiled nuns took passage on the Deutschland, which ran aground in a snowstorm near the Kentish shore of England. The ship gradually broke up in the high seas and many lives were lost, including those of the nuns. Their bodies were brought to England for solemn funeral ceremonies and the whole affair was widely reported in the newspapers. At this time, Gerard Manley Hopkins was studying theology at St. Bueno’s College in Wales. He read the reports in the press, and many details in his poem reflect the newspapers’ accounts. He seems especially to have noticed the report that, as passengers were being swept off the deck into the icy seas by towering waves, the tallest of the five nuns rose up above the others just before her death and cried out for Christ to come quickly to her. Hopkins discussed this fearful catastrophe with his rector, who suggested that someone should write a poem about it. Taking that hint as a command, Hopkins broke his self-imposed poetic silence and began to write again. The experience of the tall nun at her moment of death captured his imagination. How frightening and cruel it must have been to be on the deck of the shattered ship! Yet she was a faithful Catholic servant of God. How could God torment her so? What did she mean when she cried out for Christ to come to her as the fatal waves beat down...
(The entire section is 5681 words.)
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