Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Wreck: Stanzas 9-10

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

[Continued after a long forgetfulness, in preparation for Deutschland Day, which is Friday.]

Be adored among men,
God, three number├Ęd form;
Wring thy rebel, dogged in den
Man’s malice, with wrecking and storm.
Beyond saying sweet, past telling of tongue;
Thou art lightning and love, I found it, a winter and warm;
Father and fondler of heart thou hast wrung;
Hast thy dark descending and most art merciful then.

The speaker then addresses God with a passive command, to “be adored.” Not only is he wishing that God might be adored, but he is asking God to make Himself adored by men. He asks God to continue what He is already doing: finding ways to bring man’s rebellion to conversion and worship of Him. The Trinity is referred to (“three numbered form”) first here, and will later be mentioned near the end of the poem.

The rebellious soul needs to be caught and “wrung,” as Hopkins says, a rather violent image. But we can liken it to Donne’s “batter my heart”—the soul needs a harsh chastisement in for its sins in order to be healed, and in its wisest moments is not afraid to ask for this. Pain is better than the misery of solitary rebellion. “Dogged in den” reminds me of “The Hound of Heaven.” The soul is chased into its den by a dogged pursuer—God. The speaker asks that this rebellious soul—his own and others—be finally caught and made to surrender by the force of the storm. The theme of the storm as a mode of conversion has been mentioned before and will be again.

The thought of punishment to subdue the soul is not a pleasant one, but the converse side of repentance follows immediately. Christ is unspeakably sweet; His blows are merciful. The paradoxes of His goodness and apparent harshness are balanced with the phrases which follow: “lighting and love,” “winter and warm,” and the mention of how God is a father to the heart He has punished and is most merciful in His “dark descending,” His chastisements.

With an anvil-ding,
And with fire in him forge thy will
Or rather, rather then, stealing as Spring
Through him, melt him but master him still:
Whether at once, as once at a crash Paul,
Or as Austin, with a lingering out sweet skill,
Make mercy in all of us, out of us all
Mastery, but be adored, but be adored King.

This stanza summarizes the many routes to conversion. Some convert through suffering, like a piece of metal on a forge, purified through fire. Some convert slowly and sweetly, yet nonetheless coming to submission. Some, like St. Paul, convert once and at a crash; some, like Augustine, take years—yet the “lingering-out” sweetness of his conversion is an interesting touch, as though God was savoring each step He was teaching Augustine to walk. All must come to experience Christ’s mercy, and all must acknowledge Him as Lord. Different ways are taken by each, but Christ must be adored by all. Notice the imperative—the speaker urges God to assert His mastery and lead sinners to adore Him.


Meredith said...

So some people get the "breathe, knock, shine," and others get the "break, blow, burn." I was reading Surprised by Joy the other day, and I thought that CS Lewis seemed so much like St. Augustine, with his conversion that took years. He said that at one point he felt like a snowman that was starting to melt; such a vivid image.

Steve said...

Thanks for the "Hound of Heaven" ref,which I had missed. GMH likes words with multiple meanings that all fit. The other meaning of "dogged" is "obstinately determined." Malicious man has been pursued to his last den, where he is determined to resist to the last.