The Wreck of the Deutschland

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

I whirled out wings that spell
And fled with a fling of the heart to the heart of the Host.
Faced with the "terror" and "horror" of the lashing, fearsome storm at sea, the narrator in the passage above describes how he called out to and found comfort in God. The language is pure Hopkins. It captures the sense of high energy and frenzy in which the narrator latches on to the divine source during the storm in words such as "whirled," "fled," and "fling," that describe both the storm and the upset state of the speaker's soul. Notably, he finds his safety in God. Notable too, is the repeated use of alliteration. Alliteration occurs when words beginning with the same consonant are used in close proximity. In these lines, the "w" sounds, the "f" sounds, and finally, the "h" sounds create a sense of rhythm.
I kiss my hand
To the stars, lovely-asunder
Starlight, wafting him out of it; and
Glow, glory in thunder
Even amid the storm, the narrator begins to find the peace of God, and this is reflected in the slowing of the verse, as if the narrator's heart rate is settling. In this passage, he is able to see the beauty of God's creation even in the midst of the tempest. He moves from whirling, fleeing, and flinging himself onto God to a calm appreciation of God's work of creation. He kisses his hand to the stars and appreciates the glory of the thunder. He bows to the mystery of God and gives thanks ("bless[es]") when he understands God's glory. Verbs like "kiss" are calmer than previous verbs, and participles like "wafting" are slow and communicate a drifting feeling amid the frenzy.
Remember us in the roads, the heaven-haven of the Reward:
Our Kíng back, Oh, upon énglish sóuls!
Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east
As the poem heads to a close in the final stanza, Hopkins conflates nationalism with Christianity. He calls on the nuns who have drowned, and by implication, the Virgin Mary invoked in the stanza before, to intercede for those who survive. "English souls" have a second "king" in Jesus, who gathers the faithful in the reward of a heaven-haven or heavenly refuge. The final stanza expresses the speaker's faith that the drowned nuns have gone to heaven. He then calls on "us,"—all of us who are survivors—to "easter," or be reborn as a result of this tragedy. He wants Jesus and the holy spirit to become a dayspring, or start of a new, bright day in the "dimness" of our souls. He compares religious redemption to a "crimson-cresseted east," by which he means a rosy topped dawn (the east is where the sun rises) to a new spiritual life in Christ through a renewed faith brought on by disaster. We note, too, the piling of alliteration and assonance here (words beginning with the same vowel in close proximity), which builds a crescendo of intensity through the repetition of "r" sounds, "h" sounds, "d" sounds, and "c" sounds.

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