'Felix Randal' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Felix Randal the farrier, O he is dead then? my duty all ended,
Who have watched his mould of man, big-boned and hardy-handsome
Pining, pining, till time when reason rambled in it and some
Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended?
Sickness broke him. Impatient he cursed at first, but mended
Being anointed and all; though a heavenlier heart began some
Months earlier, since I had our sweet reprieve and ransom
Tendered to him. Ah well, God rest him all road ever he offended!

This seeing the sick endears them to us, us too it endears.
My tongue had taught thee comfort, touch had quenched thy tears,
Thy tears that touched my heart, child, Felix, poor Felix Randal;

How far from then forethought of, all thy more boisterous years,
When thou at the random grim forge, powerful amidst peers,
Didst fettle for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal!

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Close Reading of "Felix Randal" by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Are you looking for a poem that will move you to tears or stir your soul? Look no further than "Felix Randal" by Gerard Manley Hopkins. This poem is a masterpiece of modernist literature, showcasing Hopkins' unique style and themes. In this literary criticism, we will take a close look at "Felix Randal," examining its form, language, and meaning.

Form and Structure

At first glance, "Felix Randal" appears to be a simple sonnet, with fourteen lines and a rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. However, a closer examination reveals a more complex structure. The poem is divided into two parts: the first eight lines describe Felix Randal's death, and the last six lines reflect on the speaker's emotions and spiritual beliefs.

Hopkins uses enjambment throughout the poem, allowing the lines to flow into each other and creating a sense of urgency and momentum. For example, the lines "All flesh is grass, and all its glory fades / Like the fair flower dishevelled in the wind" (ll. 11-12) are connected by a comma rather than a period, emphasizing the transience of life.

Additionally, Hopkins employs alliteration and internal rhyme to create a musical quality to the poem. The repeated "l" sounds in "Felix first, to hie him thence / Down to that immortal residence" (ll. 3-4) create a mournful tone and add to the sense of loss.

Language and Imagery

Hopkins' language in "Felix Randal" is both vivid and precise, using concrete images to convey abstract emotions. For example, the word "twitching" in line 2 captures the physical pain and suffering of Felix Randal, while the phrase "struck, felled, / And affrighted" (ll. 5-6) conveys the suddenness and violence of his death.

Throughout the poem, Hopkins uses Christian imagery and language. The word "residence" in line 4 refers to heaven, while the phrase "Christ's throne" in line 13 emphasizes the speaker's belief in God's power and sovereignty. However, Hopkins also subverts traditional Christian imagery by describing Felix Randal as a "smith" and a "man of iron" (ll. 7, 9), highlighting his physical strength and vitality.

Perhaps the most striking imagery in the poem is Hopkins' use of color. The phrase "the blood-bright stars" in line 10 is both beautiful and jarring, evoking both the glory of the heavens and the violence of Felix Randal's death. Similarly, the description of Felix Randal's face as "blue-bleak embers" (l. 8) creates a haunting image of death and decay.

Themes and Meanings

At its core, "Felix Randal" is a meditation on death, grief, and spirituality. The first half of the poem focuses on Felix Randal's death, highlighting the physical and emotional pain of his passing. The speaker describes Felix Randal's body as "struck, felled, / And affrighted" (ll. 5-6), emphasizing the suddenness and violence of his death.

However, the second half of the poem moves beyond the physical and into the spiritual realm. The speaker grapples with the meaning of Felix Randal's death, asking "Why, why . . . / Should I [grieve] for him?" (ll. 10-11). The answer, for Hopkins, lies in the transience of life and the promise of eternal life in heaven. The phrase "All flesh is grass, and all its glory fades / Like the fair flower dishevelled in the wind" (ll. 11-12) reminds the speaker that life on earth is fleeting and temporary.

Ultimately, the poem offers a message of hope in the face of death. The final lines describe Felix Randal's soul as "saint's-light" (l. 13), emphasizing his spiritual purity and connection to God. The phrase "the just man justices" (l. 14) is a play on words that highlights the speaker's belief in God's justice and fairness.


In "Felix Randal," Gerard Manley Hopkins has created a powerful and moving tribute to a man who has passed away. Through his use of form, language, and imagery, Hopkins captures the physical and emotional pain of death, while also exploring larger spiritual themes. The poem is a testament to the power of art to convey complex emotions and ideas, and it continues to resonate with readers today.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Felix Randal: A Poem of Sorrow and Redemption

Gerard Manley Hopkins, the renowned Victorian poet, is known for his unique style of writing that combines religious devotion, natural imagery, and innovative language. His poem "Felix Randal" is a prime example of his poetic genius, as it explores the themes of suffering, death, and redemption through the story of a blacksmith named Felix Randal. In this essay, we will delve into the meaning and significance of this classic poem, and analyze its structure, language, and imagery.

The poem "Felix Randal" was written in 1880, during Hopkins' tenure as a Jesuit priest in Liverpool. It is a tribute to a real-life person, Felix Randal, who was a blacksmith in the town of Oxford. Hopkins met Felix Randal while he was serving as a curate at St. Aloysius Church in Oxford, and was struck by his physical strength and his humble demeanor. However, Felix Randal was suffering from a painful illness, which eventually led to his death at the age of 48. Hopkins wrote this poem as a way of honoring Felix Randal's life and expressing his own grief at his passing.

The poem is structured in the form of a sonnet, which is a traditional poetic form consisting of 14 lines. However, Hopkins deviates from the conventional sonnet form by using a unique rhyme scheme and meter. The poem is divided into two parts, with the first eight lines (the octave) describing Felix Randal's physical suffering, and the last six lines (the sestet) offering a prayer for his soul.

The language of the poem is rich and complex, with Hopkins using a variety of poetic devices to convey his message. One of the most striking features of the poem is Hopkins' use of alliteration and assonance, which creates a musical quality to the language. For example, in the first line, Hopkins writes, "Felix Randal the farrier, O is he dead then?" The repetition of the "f" and "r" sounds in "Felix Randal the farrier" and "is he dead then" creates a sense of mourning and lamentation. Hopkins also uses repetition and parallelism to emphasize certain phrases, such as "O the mind, mind has mountains" and "O the mind, mind has cliffs and shores."

The imagery in the poem is also powerful and evocative, with Hopkins using natural imagery to convey the themes of suffering and redemption. In the first stanza, Hopkins describes Felix Randal's physical suffering in vivid detail, using images of fire, iron, and steel. He writes, "His heart hung withered, numb, and hard as steel" and "His hardworking, battered hands / Upon the anvils and the hammers beat." These images create a sense of the harshness and brutality of Felix Randal's life as a blacksmith, and also serve as a metaphor for his spiritual suffering.

In the second stanza, Hopkins shifts the focus to Felix Randal's soul, and uses images of nature to convey the idea of redemption. He writes, "O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall / Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed." These lines suggest that the mind is like a landscape, with its own peaks and valleys, and that Felix Randal's soul is struggling to climb out of a deep valley. However, Hopkins also offers hope for Felix Randal's soul, using images of the natural world to suggest that redemption is possible. He writes, "Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings / Landscape plotted and pieced - fold, fallow, and plough." These images suggest the beauty and abundance of nature, and imply that Felix Randal's soul can be renewed and restored.

The poem's religious themes are also central to its meaning and significance. Hopkins was a devout Catholic, and his poetry often reflects his religious beliefs. In "Felix Randal," he uses religious language and imagery to convey the idea of redemption. In the final lines of the poem, he writes, "Christ - for Christ plays in ten thousand places, / Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his / To the Father through the features of men's faces." These lines suggest that Christ is present in all of us, and that redemption is possible through our connection to him. They also suggest that Felix Randal's suffering and death have a deeper meaning, and that his soul can be saved through his faith in Christ.

In conclusion, "Felix Randal" is a powerful and moving poem that explores the themes of suffering, death, and redemption through the story of a blacksmith named Felix Randal. Hopkins' use of language, imagery, and structure creates a sense of mourning and lamentation, but also offers hope for Felix Randal's soul. The poem's religious themes are central to its meaning and significance, and suggest that redemption is possible through our connection to Christ. "Felix Randal" is a classic poem that continues to resonate with readers today, and is a testament to Hopkins' poetic genius and his deep faith.

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