Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

08 December 2019

Wrecking “The Wreck”

Finally, after months of priming the proverbial pump with a dozen or so of Hopkins’ more palatable works, I tried my vocal cords at the one his best friend Robert Bridges considered the most formidable and obscure. Being able to time it with the anniversary of the eponymous shipwreck was a bonus.

In the days of my podcast, I did record it once, and I think this YouTube playlist has come to enjoy the same dim popularity. By no means am I quitting my day job, but research, recitation, and writing on GMH, among poets one of the more challenging, has become a beloved pastime.

Better people than I have summarized “Wreck” for popular use, and I have scarcely begun to explore their efforts. The first Google result (viz., seems acceptable to me. Alice Jenkins wrote a great one. “Of the making of many books there is no end,” Qoheleth famously declared (Ecclesiastes 12:12); likewise of the reading.

“Wreck” was a 35-stanza ode that Hopkins’ Jesuit superior vaguely wished someone would write to commemorate the tragic dashing of a vessel off the coast of Kent. Composed not long after the event, it did not get published until 43 years later, 101 years ago. Like much of his work, it was best avoided in the minds of many, to their detriment.

Hopkins considered the starkness of his own conversion experience as a dramatic reference point for this maritime disaster. Christian theology, based on Sacred Scripture, asserts that God not only can, but does preeminently in the Paschal Mystery, bring good out of evil. Any and all suffering, joined to the supreme suffering of God Incarnate, thus enjoys unimagined capabilities.

The famed “Oxford Movement“ of Anglicans who became Catholic by the efforts of now Saint John Henry Newman was one noteworthy installment in the redemption of a religious heritage. Hopkins frames his own conversion within that larger project, and in this poem he suggests the Deutschland’s destruction can fulfill the same end.

Hopkins paints this picture in marvelous fashion, employing all his poetic prowess. It is rife with killer lines, phrases that pay. How deftly he unites the narration of his poignant experience of God, the emergence of one heroic Franciscan nun summoning the Savior during the dreadfulness, and both of these experiences to England’s return to Catholicism.

I am currently reading “Mined With a Motion” by Marylou Motto, an exposition of certain cherished poetic devices in Hopkins’ works. You won’t get a good book report out of me anymore; I can only trust that my digestion somehow improves my understanding and narration of his poetry, and otherwise enriches my life and ministry.

03 October 2019

Hurrahing in Harvest

SUMMER ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise
  Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
  Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?
I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,        5
  Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
  And, éyes, heárt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?
And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
  Majestic—as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet!—        10
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
  Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
  And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.

For this and all other Hopkins works, visit

I love Hopkins' characteristic use of alliteration: "hung hills," "world-wielding," "stallion stalwart" etc.  In the repetition of sheaves along a field we detect the Creator's majesty.

28 September 2019

27 September 2019

The Handsome Heart

God's grace inspired a young boy to agree to whatever his father wanted to give him. I wish I had been as agreeable in the grocery store.

25 September 2019

Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord

My latest recitation of GMH is one of the first I encountered as a precocious boy praying the Liturgy of the Hours. This poem was among a dozen or so others from George Herbert, Francis Thompson, etc. in the back of the volumes.

Where's my share of fruitfulness? he asks in these languishing lines.

23 September 2019

My Own Heart Let Me Have More Pity On

Hopkins left comfort root-room for a change with this one. "Let joy size / At God knows when to God knows what" suggests he wants to adopt the divine perspective toward his life.

Joy is one of the "Fruits of the Holy Spirit" in Galatians 5; fellow Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called it "the infallible sign of the presence of God."

The Shipwrack-Harvest on YouTube

I don’t know what took me so long to make YouTube recordings of GMH, but here is a link to my first playlist of same. A work in progress: recordings seem to emerge almost daily in this springtime of activity.

Regarding quality: I don’t claim to be good, only interested.

22 February 2019

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

As Kingfishers Catch Fire is the first poem I have chosen to recite on my podcast.

It's the first Hopkins poem I remember hearing cited (in part), at the ordination of several transitional deacons. Auxiliary Bishop of Washington Gordon Bennett, S.J., the ordaining prelate, preached the last three lines of this swell sonnet: "For Christ plays in ten thousand places, / lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not His / to the Father through the features of men's faces."

Drawing upon the philosophy of Blessed John Duns Scotus, Hopkins appreciated the haecceitas, or individuality ("this-ness") of created realities. Each one of those ten thousands slays in its own way, or indeed Christ slays through them. (I know it's "plays" and not "slays"; I just wanted to use the latter term while it's still in the Youthvocabulary.)

Somewhere I read about the bell-like quality of the following:

"Like each tucked string tells, each
>bell's /

In one of his sermons, Hopkins defines grace as "any action, activity, on God's part by which, in creating or after creating, he carries the creature to or towards the end of its being, which is its selfsacrifice to God and its salvation."

The preceding definition is found in the poem notes in Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Major Works, one of the sources I shall cite frequently.

Here Hopkins echoes a saying of St. Catharine of Siena that appeals to modern ears: "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."

Kingfishers and dragonflies can't help but be what they are, but we can. The same grace of God impels us all, but our cooperation with that grace is necessary and noble.

21 February 2019

Time for a Podcast

I started this blog some years ago as a place to inspire, inform, and entertain. Its name, "The Shipwrack-Harvest," is a reference from Gerard Manley Hopkins' ode "The Wreck of the Deutschland."

In the worst of this 1875 disaster, five nuns exiled for their Catholic faith started crying out for Christ to come quickly to their rescue, whether as transport-to-shore or death. Hopkins wondered whether the nuns' plea could serve as an intercession for souls to return to Christ.

is the shipwrack then a harvest, does tempest carry the grain for thee? 

Incidentally that's why this blog is spelled ship"wrAck" and not "wrEck." Maybe they spelled it that way years ago. We used to hear the phrase "to rack and to ruin," so maybe there's a connection.

This past week has witnessed articles concerning problems with Catholic priests' failures in chastity (sex only within marriage). The celibate vocation is for the Latin rite the typical condition to be ordained a priest. The celibate person (priest or not) witnesses to the primacy of everyone's relationship with God over spousal relations, however good and necessary they are to the Kingdom.

Hopkins had struggles with his creed, his family loyalties, his emotions--even, it seems, with his sexuality. His poems were sallies in a well-waged spiritual campaign.

In "The Shipwrack-Harvest Podcast," I wish to narrate these poetic forays so their sacredness and whimsy can "fling out broad [the] name" of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and I hope you can join me.

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