chapter  3
“Fetch” in Him
Pages 23

Hopkins’s longest and most ambitious poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland was inspired by newspaper reports of the foundering of a German ship in the mouth of the Thames on December 7, 1875. Among the casualties of the wreck were five Franciscan nuns, exiled from Germany by Bismarck’s anti-Catholic Falck Laws.1 For Hopkins, the nuns were martyrs and the shipwreck a reminder of the violent intervention of Divine Providence in human lives. Hopkins, like many Catholics, viewed martyrdom as an opportunity to share in the redemptive suffering of Christ. Seven years earlier, commenting to his mother on the exile of the Jesuits from Spain, he had observed that, “to be persecuted in a tolerant age is a high distinction.”2 Behind the human losses of the wreck, Hopkins found reassurance of divine order and ultimate human triumph. The Wreck of the Deutschland challenges Victorian confidence in social progress and selfimprovement, insisting upon humanity’s utter dependence upon an all-powerful Creator whose love must be experienced as “mastery” as well as “mercy” before it can be understood.