Hopkins, a Welsh monk, was nearly lost to the public when he renounced his own work, burned a large portion of his creations and sunk into relative obscurity around the turn of the century. Oh, what a tragedy would that have been! Thanks to T.S. Eliot and other astute cultural advocates, this pioneer in the realm of confluence of sound and meaning has received more of the respect he deserves.
Hopkins' style is unique--a combination of Anglo-Saxon alliterative stress patterns, and a truly modern consciousness of spirituality and doubt. Although he draws heavily on Mediaeval techniques of versification, the poet's language escapes the flatline of the archaic through an energetic dynamism. The result is what he terms "sprung rhythm", wherein phonemes reach a level of excitement through rhythmic juxtaposition of stressed and unstressed syllables in an at times choppy, at times smooth pattern.
What I believe "Wreck of the Deutchland" is a masterpiece of Hopkins' language. This poem, like much of his work, is extraordinarily well suited to reading out loud. The ebb and flow of the paced alternation of syllabic and intoned stress gives the reader an intuitive feel for the thematic material of the poem. When the boat is tossed by rough waters, so tosses the reader's voice. When the narrator trembles with fear or faith, so trembles the reader's tongue. However, the sonic force of "Wreck of the Deutchland" is only one aspect of this multi-layered tapestry. The language of sound is a kind of precondition or foreshadowing of the meaning contained in the semantic and symbolic language of the text.
The thing perhaps that I love most about Hopkins is that he seems to incorporate all facets of expression in his work, but certainly not in a pedantic fashion. He is a metaphysical poet in the most honest and unassuming manner. The different textual layers arise and intermingle organically in the medium of the very accessibly, very human voice of a humble poet.