The Wreck of the Deutschland

The Wreck of the Deutschland is a 35-stanza ode by Gerard Manley Hopkins with Christian themes, composed in 1875 and 1876, though not published until 1918.[1] The poem depicts the shipwreck of the SS Deutschland. Among those killed in the shipwreck were five Franciscan nuns forced to leave Germany by the Falk Laws; the poem is dedicated to their memory.

The poem has attracted considerable critical attention,[2] and is often considered Hopkins' masterpiece because of its length, ambition, and use of sprung rhythm and instress.

Popular cultureEdit

  • Hopkins's struggles while writing the poem form the basis for the Ron Hansen novel Exiles.
  • The poem plays a major role in Anthony Burgess' third "Enderby" novel, The Clockwork Testament, or Enderby's End, in which Enderby pitches an idea for a movie adaptation of the poem and produces a script, only to be duly horrified when the resulting movie bears little resemblance to either his script or to Hopkins's poem. It also makes a notable appearance in Muriel Spark's novella The Girls of Slender Means, recited by the character Joanna, a budding teacher of elocution in World War II London.
  • Both Hopkins's efforts to write the poem and the real-life events on the Deutschland are the subject of Simon Edge's novel The Hopkins Conundrum.[3]
  • The first several lines of the ode are part of a relief sculpture above the door inside the Palace of Nations, the home of the United Nations Office at Geneva.[4]