“Joy fall to thee, father Francis, / Drawn to the Life that died”

Last night in our poetry reading group we spent the whole time on Gerard Manley Hopkins’, “The Wreck of the Deutschland“, inspired by a shipwreck in storm in which five Franciscan sisters were drowned.  They were fleeing the kulturkampf in Germany to come to America, St. Louis, to teach. It is a difficult and rewarding poem.

St. Francis was mentioned.  Here are two stanzas.


Joy fall to thee, father Francis,
Drawn to the Life that died;
With the gnarls of the nails in thee, niche of the lance, his
Lovescape crucified            180
And seal of his seraph-arrival! and these thy daughters
And five-livèd and leavèd favour and pride,
Are sisterly sealed in wild waters,
To bathe in his fall-gold mercies, to breathe in his all-fire glances.


Away in the loveable west,            185
On a pastoral forehead of Wales,
I was under a roof here, I was at rest,
And they the prey of the gales;
She to the black-about air, to the breaker, the thickly
Falling flakes, to the throng that catches and quails            190
Was calling ‘O Christ, Christ, come quickly’:
The cross to her she calls Christ to her, christens her wild-worst Best.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. traditionalorganist says:

    This is beautiful.

  2. digdigby says:

    I find Hopkins as cloying and unctuous as eggnog. Its all very grand but I crave one homely detail, one touch of humanity. Just one. Honestly, I prefer Father Tabb or even Margaret Rutherford reading The Killing of Dan McGrew.

  3. AnAmericanMother says:

    here ya go:

    Ask of her, the mighty mother :
    Her reply puts this other
    Question : What is Spring?—
    Growth in every thing—

    Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
    Grass and greenworld all together ;
    Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
    Throstle above her nested

    Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
    Forms and warms the life within ;
    And bird and blossom swell
    In sod or sheath or shell.

    All things rising, all things sizing
    Mary sees, sympathizing
    With that world of good
    Nature’s motherhood.

  4. traditionalorganist says:

    digdigby, I love eggnog. Perhaps only people who like eggnog like Hopkins.

  5. thereseb says:

    Digby – start with this for Hopkins’ humanity. I first read this at 17, as well as the Wreck. Now I am 50 and I know its truth.

    Margaret, are you grieving
    Over Goldengrove unleaving?
    Leaves, like the things of man, you
    With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
    Ah! as the heart grows older
    It will come to such sights colder
    By and by, nor spare a sigh
    Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
    And yet you will weep know why.
    Now no matter, child, the name:
    Sorrow’s springs are the same.
    Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
    What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
    It is the blight man was born for,
    It is Margaret you mourn for.

  6. digdigby says:

    Bishop Sheen said “Hearing nuns confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn.”
    I should learn to keep my mouth shut. A mob of Hopkinites are going to stone me to death with Hopkins – alas, the sensation is uncannily like the one Sheen described.

  7. MattW says:

    What timing! I’ve just finished Ron Hansen’s novel Exiles about Hopkins, the nuns who perished on the Deutschland, and the composition of the poem. I’m no great fan of of his poetry, but the novel was an interesting read.

  8. Digdiby: Thank you for trashing my post.

  9. Sid says:

    Thank you, Father. One of my favorite poems from one of my favorite poets.

  10. AnAmericanMother says:

    I’m not particularly a Hopkinsite — my taste runs more to Kipling (who can be fairly elliptical and allusive, not to mention elusive, himself, but in a completely different style).
    Still, you asked a question and you got an answer. Two answers.

  11. APX says:

    This is far better than any of that Margaret Atwood poetry they made us study in every high school English class and University English class I was ever in.

  12. AnAmericanMother says:

    Somehow along the way I missed Margaret Atwood. I had to go look her up.
    I did read part of the Handmaid’s Tale long ago but gave it up as silly.
    Poetry that is online is nothing to write home about.
    Hopkins is in a completely different class.

  13. hicks says:

    I just read Ron Hansen’s “Exiles” as well. I think you would like it, Father.

  14. APX says:

    Somehow along the way I missed Margaret Atwood. I had to go look her up.

    She’s a Canadian Author and uber feminist. I’m from Canada, so naturally our school curriculum requires that we study her, and the school system I was in felt the need to infuse every English class in high school with her work. Personally, she scares me.

  15. NoraLee9 says:

    I received an MA in English Language and Literature from a Catholic University here in the 5 boroughs. Never read the poem before. What a delight this blog is! I encounter new material every day to keep the brain matter churning. It reminds me again that the Catholic faith has a great range: It satisfies people on the entire intellectual and emotional spectrum.

  16. AnAmericanMother says:

    Ah, a “local hero”. That explains why I had forgotten her.
    Our “local hero” here is Sidney Lanier. A hit-or-miss late Victorian poet who wrote a lot of junk, with the occasional brilliant flash:
    “As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod,
    Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God.”
    At least he wasn’t a crazy feminist. They scare me too – so full of hate and ultimately destructive not only of all around them but also themselves.

  17. DeaconPaul says:

    For me Gerard Manley Hopkins expresses “God in all things” better than any other poet of whom I’m aware (though I’m a bit limited), a crossover of Ignatian and Franciscan spiritualities.

    For my part I was inspired to put a few words on my Deacon Paul blog.

    Thank you, Fr Z , for the wide ranging subjects of your own blog.

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