Saturday, November 12, 2005

Hopkins' God, Three-Numbered Form

So now for the rest of the stanzas of "Part One" of The Wreck of the Deutschland. Remember, these first ten stanzas are rather like a meditation on God and the person, rather like a "first principle and foundation" for the "spiritual exercise" that is the "Part Two", the tale of the exiled & drowned nuns. These ten stanzas explore the relationship of God and the person, climaxing in a doxology to the Holy Trinity.

“Not out of his bliss”—Stanza Six—describes the stress, explores God’s instressing of the World—which Hopkins deems not as easy and cheap grace but rather as a “stroke and a stress” in a moment of time, in reality. We meet God in “stars and storms”, and “it rides time like riding a river.” The “river” here is many things—the river of life, the river of the Red Sea, death & life both, the water of baptism, the moment of conversion and transformation and Paschal Mystery.

And in Stanza Seven, Hopkins describes the stroke as the intervention, the eruption, the love-stroke of God into human history—the Incarnation. Thus Hopkins describes and makes visual in erotic terms the theology of Nature and Grace. And he indicates that this doctrine is a real historical actual thing that not all men actually know, “faithful” and “faithless”. I like the phrase “the faithless fable and miss”, because it implies a real Beauty at first in fables that ultimately remains unfulfilled because unreal; and it reminds me of the phrase in the very first stanza of the whole poem—“I feel they finger and find thee”—because it implies that the Christian relationship with God is no fabling that fails but a real lovemaking, because it is a real thing. “It dates from day of his going in Galilee.” And even the imagery of the river in these two stanzas is erotic—“hushed” . .”flushed” . . .”melt” . . .”riding a river” . . .”waver” . . .”fable and miss” . . .”dense . . .driven” . . .”sweat” . . .”discharge” . . .”swelling” . . .”felt” . . .”high flood” . . .and since it’s all about the heart whose guilt is “hushed”, so now this heart is “hard” . . .and then, in Stanza Eight, is “Is out with it !Oh, we lash with the best or worst word last!” That’s all pretty sexy penning to describe Grace and the specifics of the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery. But there it all is—and Hopkins thus in his poem-making celebrates the very flesh of the God-made-flesh!

And this beautiful penning becomes almost exciting in this Stanza Eight, more so perhaps even than Melville in the famed chapter in Moby Dick, in which the whalers celebrate in the very sperm and flesh of the sperm-whale. Hopkins' image for it here is a plum a "sloe" and how it bursts on the tongue and face. It is the real encounter with the living God, Incarnate, present, linked to the real Calvary, His real “feet”, and it is an experience of real Grace, no mere intellectualizing: “Never ask if meaning it, wanting it, warned of it—men go!” Our relationship with God is more exciting than anything! And the love-nest of this relationship is the nest of an Altar, the Altar of the Cross.

And the result—Doxology! “Be adored among men” begins Stanza Nine, in an invocation of the “Three-numbered form” of the Holy Trinity, and an act of gratitude that God’s Love can be found even in our suffering, “with wrecking and storm.” And this “lightning and love” is “past telling of tongue”, as St Paul once wrote, but yet Hopkins, in his jammed and crammed and crunched poem tells it.

Stanzas Nine & Ten are a prayer for conversion, like St Paul’s or St Augustine’s. Indeed, for a forging. As is all Christian spirituality—but oh, how much more exciting, more beautiful, more flesh-evocative is Hopkins’ poem than the insipid and pallid phrase “Christian spirituality” which so easily goes Gnostic. Hopkins’ sacramental poetry saves spirituality from itself!

Enough of my commentary. Read it all here for yourself . . .and remember, it’s all an Ignatian First Principle and Foundation for the tale of the exiled nuns, the Wreck of the Deutschland (that phrase itself has multiple meanings!) and real faith in Jesus Christ!

Not out of his bliss
Springs the stress felt
Nor first from heaven (and few know this)
Swings the stroke dealt—
Stroke and a stress that stars and storms deliver,
That guilt is hushed by, hearts are flushed by and melt—
But it rides time like riding a river
(And here the faithful waver, the faithless fable and miss).

It dates from day
Of his going in Galilee;
Warm-laid grave of a womb-life grey;
Manger, maiden’s knee;
The dense and the driven Passion, and frightful sweat;
Thence the discharge of it, there its swelling to be,
Though felt before, though in high flood yet—
What none would have known of it, only the heart, being hard at bay,

Is out with it! Oh,
We lash with the best or worst
Word last! How a lush-kept plush-capped sloe
Will, mouthed to flesh-burst,
Gush!—flush the man, the being with it, sour or sweet,
Brim, in a flash, full!—Hither then, last or first,
To hero of Calvary, Christ, ’s feet—
Never ask if meaning it, wanting it, warned of it—men go.

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.

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, a lingering-out sweet skill,
Make mercy in all of us, out of us all
Mastery, but be adored, but be adored King.

1 comment:

Anita said...

these are some lovely meditations on Hopkins.

did you know Fr. Schlatter frequently contributes articles to Hopkins Quarterly? some of them are really quite lovely.

write to me if you don't mind conversing with heathens.

(aka lori martello)