Analysis Of The Poem The Wreck Of Deutschland By Gerald Manley Hopkins

868 words - 3 pages

The SS Deutschland, an iron passenger steamship of the Norddeutscher Lloyd line, was on a maiden voyage to New York from Bremen. On December 4, 1875, the Deutschland was on its way to New York from Bremerhaven, with 123 emigrants. The weather conditions for the steamship was horrible; a blizzard hit the steamship on the Kentish Knock, an area off the coast of Kent and Essex in England. The crew of the Deutschland tried an attempt to go astern but it failed when the stress fractured the Deutschland’s propeller. The vessel began to sink, and the sea began to break over the steamship and the wind rose to gale force; consequently, an order to abandon ship. On December 7, 1875, 135 out of 213 people were saved from the wreck. Among the victims of the wreck were five Franciscan nuns from Salzkotten, Westphalia. The Franciscan nuns had been emigrating to escape the anti-Catholic Falk Laws, legislative bills enacted in the German Kingdom of Prussia during the Kulturkampf conflict with the Catholic Church. The Franciscan nuns’ death inspired Gerard Manley Hopkins to compose his longest Christian theme poem, “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” dedicated to their memory.

In this lyrical poem, dedicated to the Franciscan nuns’ lives, Hopkins expresses his reactions to the wreck of the Deutschland , which sparked powerful emotions in him. Although Hopkins is a devoted Catholic, he encounters critical difficulties in understanding God’s ways and seeks in his poem to resolve them. “The Wreck of the Deutschland” is, therefore, a theodicy (an attempt to reconcile the existence of tragedy and suffering with belief in a God who is both loving and powerful), set out to justify the ways of God to man. In Part the First, Hopkins confesses his innermost thoughts, taking the setting of the poem in his priest’s room. Hopkins, a Roman Catholic convert, agonises over the news that God has allowed such a catastrophe to happen; then, his agony deepened when Hopkins discovers the Franciscan nuns’ lives were lost on the shipwreck because they were escaping the anti-Catholic Falk Laws. Hopkins questions God’s harsh treatment of his own true followers. In the Part the Second, this part consists of 25 stanzas, in which Hopkins describes the shipwreck, taking details from The Times newspaper of Saturday, December 11, 1875. In the Part Second, he also writes about the leading nun, wondering what she was seeing and saying just before she drowned in the catastrophic shipwreck. Hopkins seems to come to a conclusion where he understands her final cry,...

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