Nature as God's book in The Wreck of the Deutschland

Nature gentle and fierce

Hopkins' belief that the created world reflects the God who created it is best seen in stanza 5's language, such as: ‘stars' ‘starlight', ‘dappled-with-damson west'. This is part of his Romantic theology, where ‘His mystery must be instressed, stressed'. This is not problematic.

However, a storm that drives a ship onto a sandbank and then splits it apart is something else. However, to Hopkins Nature is still God's book, whatever its manifestations, and so must be read aright - which is what the nun does (stanza 29) (‘Read the unshapeable shock night').

Nature in the storm, Hopkins seems to be saying, is still a revelation of God's nature, and thereby it re-enacts God's dealings with people. That is its truth and beauty. Just as God ‘stormed' Hopkins into faith, so, he hopes, will this storm do so to others.

Theological problems

Having a Romantic theology, Hopkins is reluctant to see Nature as fallen, even though he sees humans like that. Other Christian teaching sees the whole Universe as affected by the Fall of humankind, and so in disarray and malfunction:

‘the whole of Creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.' (Romans 8:22)
  • Hopkins, however, does not seem willing to accept that it is the fallen-ness of Creation which caused such a destructive storm.
  • Instead he falls back on the mysteriousness of God's ways (‘ a sovereignty that heeds but hides' stanza 32).
  • Therefore (since the ways of God can never be fully understood) the redemptiveness of the storm has to remain a hopeful supposition - he does not know if any did repent and come to God.
  • It is significant that the one thing he refuses to do is to suggest that the storm is a punishment: that would be to see God and Nature in a vindictive light, whereas Hopkins above all wishes to establish God's mercy, even in this difficult happening.
Investigating nature as God's book in The Wreck of the Deutschland
  • Re-examine stanza 10. How is the violence of nature still linked to God's mercy?
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