Poem Analysis: Felix Randall By Gerald Maneley Hopkins.
Poem Analysis: Felix Randall
By Gerald Maneley Hopkins
This poem written by Hopkins, in 1880, is a religious sonnet addressed to the dead Felix Randall, the farrier. It is a sonnet, meaning that it contains 14 lines, divided up into two quatrains and a sestet, which in turn is divided up in two tercets. This way of writing in fact keeps Randall from expressing himself completely because he is following a fixed rhyme scheme, but nonetheless he has written a powerful poem with an extensive use of vocabulary.
The story that is told in the sonnet is divided up into two different perspectives: the physical state, and the mental or spiritual state.
The fist quatrain is told in a physical point of view and is an introduction to Felix Randall who is horse farrier. This being mentioned immediately brings to mind that he must be a strong man, which in turn creates the physical perspective. After being introduced to Felix Randall, the reader is immediately thrown into the deep end by Hopkins and told that Randall is dead, that he had died from "four fatal disorders" and all Randall's harsh and hardy-handsomeness had been lost in his death by this sickness. The vocabulary, which Hopkins uses in this quatrain, brings out the harshness and the boisterousness of Felix Randall. Obviously a person needs to be strong and big-boned in order to be able to put horseshoes on horses. Randall makes it very clear that Randall was one of these people in his second sentence. It says: "Who have watched his mould of man, big-boned and hardy-handsome". Now mould of man, implies that he had quite a lot of muscles and that he was a strong fellow. But this expression can be taken several different ways. First of all and the most probable one for this poem, a mould of man, or actually a man of mould usually has to do with someone being mortal. That a person, no matter how strong or how bold he is, he can still die from disease. Second of all, a mould can also be a certain shape, which is used to pour in something and then get the same shape back but in a more solidified way. Hopkins could have used this to tell the reader that the world could be better place if every man was like Felix Randall. That if every time a new person was created, he should first be poured into the "mould" of Felix Randall and then set onto this earth. There is not a whole list of figurative language, but Hopkins does use assonance and alliteration quite extensively. By using assonance, Hopkins attempts to slow the reader down and really articulate the words well. He succeeded at it very well and the whole quatrain is laden with assonance expressions like the sentence above and "Pining, pining, till time when reason rambled... Fatal four...” This is the end of the first quatrain, where the information of Randall and his disease has broken him and this is the transition from the first quatrain to the second quatrain, where his sickness is brought more into perspective.
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The second quatrain introduces us into the spiritual perspective. Unlike the first quatrain, this quatrain deepens itself into his mental state at the time of his sickness. I think that after having read this quatrain, that the physical and mental states are completely independent from each other. Otherwise how can someone that must be so healthy die from four disorders? Randall, must have been unbalanced spiritually, and have had a weak mind in a In this quatrain, he at first does not accept this sickness at all but he later on became patient with himself and realized that "a heavenlier heart began some months earlier" and that he had his reprieve, or extension of life. The vocabulary in this quatrain is several levels less than the amount of harshness that was apparent in the first quatrain. It has gone from the harshness to the acceptance of life and its cycle. Hopkins tried to make the reader aware that no matter how strong a person is; eventually that person will die. Again, the mould of man concept is apparent. Several words that had not been seen in the poem before which shows something about Randall were words like reprieved and ransom. When words like reprieved and fansom are used in piece of work that includes a person dying of health reasons, than it means that that person has already had a life extension. It is difficult to explain, but Randall accepts his death through reprieve. Nature had given him a life extension for several months and now it was time for him to die. The figurative language used in this quatrain is also forced down to only assonance. As in the first quatrain, this is used by Hopkins to make the reader read more slowly. Assonance that’s is used are sentences like: "Being anointed and all; though a heavenlier heart... Tendered to him. "
The last quatrain brings us further “down the rabbit hole” into the spiritual world of Felix Randall. This third part of the poem is a sestet, which is split up by a caesura, which is a complete stop in the middle of the sestet. By putting in this caesura, the sestet was divided up into two tercets. In the first tercets, Hopkins has started talking in a mutual perspective. This is because he, Hopkins, and Randall share similar feelings toward life. Hopkins enjoys getting something out of life by giving his affection to other people through his priesthood, while Randall enjoys getting something out of life by using his hands and putting shoes on the horses. Maybe it sounds strange, but it could be the same appreciation the two men get. This mutuality is emphasized by the word “us”, which, obviously, evokes a certain bonding between the two people. Another word that emphasizes the bonding between the two people is the word “touch”. This word is used both metaphorically and physically, since Hopkins knew the farrier, when he was a child and thus was touched to know that he was dying. Again in this first tercet, a certain harshness returns when Hopkins used the word “quenched” which is also a word used in the sense of onomatopoeia because it sounds like a violent grasp, something harsh.
The last tercet, is a summary of his life squeezed into 3 little sentences. The words “boisterous” and “grim” brings back the harshness, the seriousness and the boldness of the first quatrain. Also the word “fettle” brings back the concept of the “man of mould”. Hopkins emphasizes again the difference between mind and body. If they are unbalanced then it doesn’t matter how strong a person is if he is weak of mind, he is easily broken.
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***3 Stars A very good essay which uses literary and linguistic terminology accurately. All comments are well supported by appropriate textual references. Shows a knowledge of the poem and discusses the poet's intentions and the response of the reader. Some very good close language analysis and the writer discusses alternative interpretations. A conclusion is needed and at times the analysis can be a little vague.