In "The Wreck of the Deutschland," as in Swinburne's "By the North Sea" (text), Hopkins uses the ocean and the idea of the ocean as a place of death as a springboard for philosophical thought. Hopkins takes the accident of a shipwreck as occasion to contemplate the relation of what is painful in life to the divine, concluding in a deep appreciation of God:

            I admire thee, master of the tides,
            Of the Yore-flood, of the year's fall;
The recurb and the recovery of the gulf's sides;
            The girth of it and the wharf of it and the wall;
Stanching, quenching ocean of a motionable mind;
Ground of being, and granite of it: past all
            Grasp God, throned behind
Death with a sovereignty that heeds but hides, bodes but abides;
                        With a mercy that outrides
                        The all of water (s. 32-33)

In "The Windhover" (text) Hopkins finds God shining through the beauty of a hawk in flight; in this poem he finds it in the storm and the lightning, the "sister calling/ a master, her master and mine" (s.18). And like at the end of that poem, he suggests that the divine is shown most splendidly in the midst of a situation of great pressure or violence. This understanding that there is a necessary glory in the terrible might of God makes Hopkins's God a duality of "lightning and love . . . a winter and warm" (st. 9).

Questions

In some hands, the conclusion Hopkins arrives at and the case he pleads might come across as desperate rationalizing. Are there any places where Hopkins seems anything but completely sincere? Is he convincing?

Despite what we might expect just from the title, Hopkins begins his poem not with the wreck of the Deutschland, but with himself, and doesn't introduce the ship until section 12. What purpose does this serve in the poem?

With his complex gammar, Hopkins's short poems are like little knots to untangle. Does the efficacy of that style change in a longer poem?


G. M. Hopkins Leading Questions

Last modified 19 November 2003