'(Carrion Comfort)' by Gerard Manley Hopkins


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Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man
In me r, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?

Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, cher.
Cheer whom though? the hero whose heaven-handling flung me, fot trd
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Carrion Comfort" by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Dear reader, have you ever felt lost in the darkness of your own struggles? Have you ever experienced the weight of seemingly insurmountable challenges bearing down on your spirit? If you have, then you can relate to the powerful emotions expressed in Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, "Carrion Comfort".

In this 46-line poem, Hopkins grapples with the pain and doubt that come with enduring personal suffering. He addresses his words to a higher power, likely God, and begs for relief from the overwhelming despair that threatens to consume him. Through his use of vivid imagery, striking metaphors, and innovative poetic techniques, Hopkins creates a deeply affecting work that speaks to the human experience of grappling with adversity.

The poem begins with a declaration of Hopkins' anguish: "Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee." Here, he personifies his pain as a vulture, a carrion bird that feeds on corpses. This is a powerful metaphor for his own suffering, as it suggests that his despair is like a ravenous predator that threatens to consume him. In this sense, the poem is a plea for deliverance from the emotional torment that he feels.

Hopkins then goes on to describe the ways in which his body and soul have been wracked by his suffering. He speaks of "shook foil", a phrase that is both evocative and enigmatic. The image of a piece of metal being shaken suggests a sense of instability and fragility, which speaks to Hopkins' own sense of vulnerability. At the same time, the phrase "shook foil" can be interpreted as a reference to the biblical story of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone. In this sense, Hopkins may be suggesting that his own struggles are a test of faith, and that he is seeking guidance from a higher power.

Throughout the poem, Hopkins uses a variety of innovative techniques to convey his emotions. One of the most striking is his use of what is known as "sprung rhythm". This is a type of meter in which the number of syllables in a line is not fixed, but the stresses within the line are. The effect is to create a sense of intense energy and emotion, as the lines seem to surge forward with a powerful force. This technique is particularly effective in the lines, "O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall/ Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed." Here, the use of sprung rhythm creates a sense of the mind's intensity and complexity, and the metaphor of mountains and cliffs suggests the sheer scale of Hopkins' suffering.

Another powerful image in the poem is that of the "wreck of the earth". This phrase suggests a sense of devastation and ruin, as if Hopkins' struggles have caused the very foundations of his world to crumble. The metaphor is particularly effective because it suggests that Hopkins' suffering is not just personal, but has wider implications for the world around him. This is a common theme in Hopkins' work, as he often explores the connections between the individual and the wider world.

Ultimately, the poem is a statement of faith in the face of adversity. Hopkins acknowledges the depths of his despair, but he also suggests that there is hope for redemption. He writes, "I can; / Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be." Here, he is expressing a determination to persevere, even in the face of overwhelming odds. This is a powerful message of resilience and courage, and it speaks to the human capacity to endure and overcome even the most difficult challenges.

In conclusion, "Carrion Comfort" is a poem of great emotional power and depth. Through his use of striking imagery, innovative poetic techniques, and profound metaphors, Gerard Manley Hopkins conveys the intense pain and doubt that come with enduring personal suffering. Yet, he also suggests that there is hope for redemption, and that the human spirit can endure and overcome even the most difficult challenges. This is a message that resonates deeply with all of us, and it is a testament to Hopkins' skill as a poet that he is able to convey it so effectively.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Carrion Comfort: A Masterpiece of Spiritual Struggle

Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era, is known for his innovative use of language and his deep spiritual insights. His poem "Carrion Comfort" is a masterpiece of spiritual struggle, exploring the themes of despair, faith, and redemption. In this 2000-word analysis, we will delve into the poem's structure, language, and meaning, and discover why it is considered one of Hopkins' most powerful works.

Structure and Form

"Carrion Comfort" is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem that follows a strict rhyme scheme and meter. However, Hopkins' sonnets are not traditional in form, as he often uses what he called "sprung rhythm," a unique meter that emphasizes the natural stress patterns of words rather than the syllables. This gives his poetry a musical quality and a sense of spontaneity that is both thrilling and challenging for the reader.

The poem is divided into two parts, the first eight lines (the octave) and the last six lines (the sestet). The octave presents the problem or conflict, while the sestet offers a resolution or conclusion. In "Carrion Comfort," the octave is a cry of despair and anguish, while the sestet is a plea for faith and hope.

Language and Imagery

Hopkins' language is rich and complex, full of alliteration, assonance, and wordplay. He often invents new words or uses archaic ones to create a sense of timelessness and mystery. In "Carrion Comfort," he uses a variety of images and metaphors to express his spiritual struggle.

The title itself is a paradox, as "carrion" means dead flesh or decaying matter, while "comfort" suggests solace or relief. This sets the tone for the poem, which is a meditation on the paradoxical nature of faith and suffering.

The first line, "Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee," is a powerful statement of defiance and resistance. The speaker refuses to give in to despair or to find comfort in his own suffering. He sees despair as a kind of carrion, a dead thing that can only lead to spiritual death.

The second line, "Not untwist - slack they may be - these last strands of man," is a metaphor for the unraveling of the speaker's soul. He feels as if he is coming apart at the seams, and he cannot control the process. The phrase "slack they may be" suggests that there is still some hope, some possibility of holding on.

The third line, "Nor ever puzzle out what I am - thy son," is a reference to the speaker's relationship with God. He feels lost and confused, unable to understand his own identity as a child of God. The word "puzzle" suggests a kind of intellectual struggle, as if the speaker is trying to solve a riddle or a puzzle.

The fourth line, "Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend," is a paradoxical statement that acknowledges the justice of God even in the midst of the speaker's struggle. He recognizes that his suffering is not unjust, but he still resists it.

The fifth line, "With thee, man's heart in thee, my heart in me," is a powerful image of the unity of God and man. The speaker recognizes that his heart is in God, and that God's heart is in him. This suggests a deep intimacy and connection between the speaker and God.

The sixth line, "I am weary of my own life's self and sin," is a confession of the speaker's weariness and guilt. He is tired of his own weaknesses and failures, and he longs for redemption.

The seventh line, "When wilt thou save the soul of me, poor man," is a plea for salvation and deliverance. The speaker recognizes his own poverty and need, and he turns to God for help.

The eighth line, "Which of thy wheelesr'st, the pains of thy man's bones," is a metaphor for the suffering that the speaker experiences. The word "wheelest" suggests a kind of mechanical or cosmic force, as if the speaker's suffering is part of a larger plan or design.

The sestet of the poem offers a resolution to the speaker's struggle. The first line, "No, no, not by mine, by thine, O Lord," is a surrender to God's will. The speaker recognizes that he cannot save himself, but he trusts in God's power to save him.

The second line, "I can no more, I can no more, I can no more," is a repetition that emphasizes the speaker's sense of helplessness and surrender. He has reached the end of his own strength, and he must rely on God's grace.

The third line, "Thy skies, thy skies, not mine, befriend and bless," is a metaphor for the divine perspective that the speaker seeks. He recognizes that his own vision is limited and distorted, but he trusts in God's vision and wisdom.

The fourth line, "With mercy's self, with love, goodwill, thyself," is a plea for God's mercy and love. The speaker recognizes that he is unworthy of God's grace, but he trusts in God's goodness and compassion.

The fifth line, "Yea, faither, yea, and we flee, we flee from thee," is a confession of the speaker's own weakness and sinfulness. He recognizes that he has turned away from God, but he longs to return to him.

The final line, "Drawn by thy grace, oh, thy grace alone," is a statement of faith and hope. The speaker recognizes that he cannot save himself, but he trusts in God's grace to draw him back to himself.

Meaning and Significance

"Carrion Comfort" is a deeply spiritual poem that explores the themes of despair, faith, and redemption. The speaker's struggle is a universal one, as we all experience moments of doubt and despair in our lives. Hopkins' language and imagery express the complexity and paradoxical nature of faith, as we struggle to understand God's will and purpose in our lives.

The poem is also a meditation on the nature of suffering and the role it plays in our spiritual growth. The speaker recognizes that his suffering is not meaningless or arbitrary, but part of a larger plan or design. He trusts in God's goodness and compassion, even in the midst of his own weakness and sinfulness.

Finally, "Carrion Comfort" is a testament to the power of language and poetry to express the deepest truths of the human experience. Hopkins' use of language and form creates a sense of musicality and beauty that transcends the limitations of words. The poem is a masterpiece of spiritual struggle, a testament to the enduring power of faith and hope in the face of despair.

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