Diction in The Wreck of the Deutschland

Power and mastery

Hopkins' use of words of power and mastery is fully dealt with in the ‘Going deeper' section. To review some of the examples, there are:

  • ‘master' (10,19,28); ‘martyr-master' (21); ‘master of the tides' (32); ‘mastering' (1); ‘Lord' (1,35, and as a verb 28); ‘King' (28,35); ‘prince' (35); ‘Head' (28); ‘sovereignty' (32); ‘throned' (32); ‘reign' (35); ‘sway' (1); ‘triumph' (28)
  • ‘tower' can also be seen as a word of power as well as of defensiveness (3,17)
  • Cognate with this are words of binding, as ‘bound' (1); ‘fastend' (1); ‘laced' (2); ‘roped' (4)
  • words of stress/stroke (2,5,6)
  • words of entrapment or enclosure: ‘walls' (2); ‘hard at bay' (7); ‘den' (9), ‘vault' (12).
Investigating diction in The Wreck of the Deutschland
  • Many of these words occur in Part one rather than Part two.
    • Why should this be?
  • Why is Hopkins so concerned with words of power and control?

Violence and drama

As might be expected from an account of a shipwreck, there are many dramatic words, many of which are of violence. There are nouns and verbs of action and movement, the two seemingly interchangeable in Hopkins' very flexible use of words as parts of speech.

Examples include:

  • ‘sweep' (2); ‘swirling' (19); ‘hurl/ing' (2,13,15); ‘whirled' (3); ‘brawling' (19); ‘blow' (16); ‘crash' (10); ‘beat down' (14); ‘hurtle' (3); ‘fling' (3); ‘drove' (14); ‘struck' (14); ‘pitched' (16); the wonderful word ‘sloggering' (19).

Perhaps you can add to this list.

We are reminded just how many monosyllabic words of action there are in the English language.

Fear and dread

Appropriate to his own personal experience and that of the shipwrecked victims, there are many words of fear and dread:

  • ‘dread'(1); ‘horror' (2); ‘frightful' (7); ‘cringe' (11), to name a few.
Investigating diction in The Wreck of the Deutschland
  • Besides adding to the list, can you find contrasting, softer words, like ‘melt' (10) or ‘dandled' (16)?
    • Are such words used literally?
    • As oxymorons?
    • ironically?


Many of these words are onomatopoeic. Hopkins seems particularly fascinated with monosyllables that end in –sh, as in: ‘lash/ed' (2,8); ‘crash' (10); ‘flash' (8); ‘wash-' (15); ‘flesh' (8); and the trio ‘lush', ‘plush' and ‘flush' (8).

Theological terms

A number of other words are significant for their meaning rather than their sound, especially some of the technical, theological words, as: ‘Passion' (33); ‘doomsday' (33); ‘instress' (5); ‘christen'(24); ‘mystery'(5), and words of mercy and grace: ‘grace to grace'(3);'merciful'(9); ‘his own bespoken'(22);'mercies'(23); ‘comfort'(25), and so on.

Investigating diction in The Wreck of the Deutschland
  • Can you add to either of these lists?
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