'Bidding and forbidding': Morality, Prosody, and The Wreck of the Deutschland

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title> jats:pThis essay considers the unsettling prosody of The Wreck of the Deutschland (composed 1875–6), Gerard Manley Hopkins’s long poem in sprung rhythm, through the lens of his implicit and explicit claims about the moral and theological operations of poetic form. Connecting Hopkins’s account of poetry’s forceful ‘bidding’ to his later assertions about God’s ‘bidding and forbidding’, the essay’s first section argues that the affective texture of Hopkins’s verse undertakes a kind of moral and theological self-examination, registering the implicit violence and volatility of The Wreck’s theodicy. Taking stock of Hopkins’s reading of William Wordsworth, moreover—and developing this, in its second section, through some of Hopkins’s philosophical writings as a young man—it goes on to explore how the sounds and rhythms of poetry might intimate the complexities of moral and religious belief. The essay is committed, indeed, to understanding the sensate qualities of verse form as a medium for serious thinking, implicated as they can be with the proper intensities and uncertainties of our spiritual lives. At stake in The Wreck’s prosody, it claims, is less a kind of sure-footed belief than what Hopkins described as the ‘shock’ or ‘tremble’ of reading Wordsworth’s ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality’ (1807): the undecidable sense of ‘having seen something, whatever that really was’.</jats:p>

47 Language, Communication and Culture, 4705 Literary Studies
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Review of English Studies
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Oxford University Press (OUP)