Tone in The Wreck of the Deutschland

Variation of tone

In terms of voice or tone, we have suggested that in The Wreck of the Deutschland it is basically dramatic, being both the drama of internal and external conflict. The first three verses are as dramatic as anything Hopkins ever wrote. However, there are gentler, more lyrical stanzas spaced in between to provide contrast and movement within the poem.

Thus, the first three stanzas are followed by the much more intimate stanzas 4,5; the drama of the nun's cry is followed by the almost hymn-like stanza 30. Even the lay-out on the page gives us a clue: the shorter, more concise stanzas are usually simpler, softer, more lyrical; the longer, spread-out ones are usually the more dramatic. However:

  • the long stanza 31 is more thoughtful and contemplative
  • clearly, stanza 28, with its broken phrases is meant to be read almost ecstatically, as the emotional climax of the poem
  • the last stanza, as several others, is the drama of triumph rather than conflict.
Investigating tone in The Wreck of the Deutschland
  • Read stanzas 11 and 23 in several different tones of voice. Which seem the most satisfactory to you?
    • Can you see how Hopkins achieves the different tones?
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