Felix Randall

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FELIX RANDAL The Poem “Felix Randal” is a sonnet with an Italian or Petrarchan rhyme scheme (abba, abba, ccd, ccd); although not published until 1918, it was written in 1880. The title character is known from extrinsic evidence to have been a thirty-one-year-old blacksmith named Felix Spencer, who died of pulmonary tuberculosis; Father Gerard Manley Hopkins, while a curate in a slum parish in Liverpool, visited him often, administered the last sacraments, and officiated at his funeral. Hence the poem is largely romantic self-expression. There is little or no ironic separation between the “I” (the speaker within the poem) and the author (the historical Hopkins outside the poem), so the “I” may be taken as a Roman Catholic priest reflecting…show more content…
The word “boisterous” in line 12 suggests much about the farrier’s earlier life. Boisterousness denotes great energy and connotes noise and lack of restraint, a kind of unbridled excess of animal vitality neither wicked nor quite human; in other poems, Hopkins calls a river “boisterously beautiful” and describes the wind on a sunny day as a “bright wind boisterous.” The word may provide a clue to the poet’s choice of “Randal” as the dead man’s last name. Three words in the poem echo it. “Ransom” (line 7) names the cure the blacksmith found in Christ. By contrast, “ramble” (line 3) and “random” (line 13) might suggest the farrier’s faults of character. He is errant and unshaped, astray and haphazard; “random” can even name a disorderly life. Further, the British “randy,” or guilty of excess, might echo in the surname Randal. Themes and Meanings In the Liverpool slums, the classics scholar Hopkins was as far removed from his natural habitat (the university and the seminary) as Felix Randal was from his (the forge) when he lay in his sickbed. The two dislocations brought the two men together in a totally unpredictable friendship—“How far from then forethought of”—and a deep religious relationship of father and child, of tiny Father Hopkins, barely five feet tall and
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