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Monday, 13 June 2011

Gerard Manley Hopkins: Felix Randal


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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9c/Joseph_Wright_003.jpg

The Iron Forge: Joseph Wright of Derby, 1772 (Broadlands Collection)




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!





http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6e/Heinrich_Seufferheld_Junger_Schmied_opus_27%2C1_1894.png

Young blacksmith: Heinrich Seufferfeld (1866-1940), from H. T. Musper: Heinrich Seufferfeld: Das radierte Werk, 1941 (image by Rosenzweig, 1 January 2011)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b0/Goya_Forge.jpg

La Forja (The Forge): Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, c. 1819 (Frick Collection, New York)

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889): Felix Randal (written 28 April 1880, first published 1918)

13 comments:

Conrad DiDiodato said...

Love Hopkins

His difficulty & purity, above all.

TC said...

Thanks Conrad. And yes.

To which virtues of his I have latterly learnt to add compassion also, perhaps latest noticed because latest understood to be an actual possibility in the poem (surely the failing of vision in the reader not the writer in this case, but fortunately we are sometimes permitted to see more from the dark than we thought we knew by light of day...).

Where else at any rate would one go in poetry these days to be given to know this:

This seeing the sick endears them to us, us too it endears.

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,
Wonderful -- not the Hopkins one reads these days or wonders at (its wonders), "my duty all ended," "this seeing the sick endears them to us, us too it endears," "Didst fettle for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal!" --

6.13

fog moving across grey whiteness of sky
above ridge, shadowed black pine branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

that was there, actual fact
is thought of possible

which had been that, to say
“is a thing,” to think

grey white of fog against top of ridge,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

curtisroberts said...

This really surprised me and raised my frayed mood. The strong but lattice-like structure, the beautiful sounds, Felix Randal the farrier's "heavenlier heart" and the pictures made my day. "Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended?" How does one become able to put that on paper?

Ed Baker said...

in 1969
I went into The Prado &
saw all of those little Goya's
hanging on the walls of the stairwell going down

I mean to tell you AMAZING

this is reporting at its bestest...

Goya via etchings

Dickens via words

... I got tears in my eyes

TC said...

Hopkins wrote this poem at age 35, in the spring of 1880, when he was ministering as a priest to the poor in the great soot-blackened industrial city of Liverpool. He was of course not a "famous poet" then, nor, for that matter, at any time in his not very long life (he died at 44).

In any case, to go among the poor, to offer care, to aid and to assuage, and to speak of these experiences and circumstances from the heart, and to the heart, would certainly not be listed among the enterprises of the celebrity poets of our day.

Which is why their works speak to no one and are so soon forgot.

Ed Baker said...

neat/interesting 'broken rhythms" (I just now made that term up ... seems to fit) in this Hopkins poem ..

and I just can not ignore the erotic of it...

zand I really appreciate your justnow comment

the last line of
"(...) and are soon forgot.

let s hope so

TC said...

Ed,

I think you've hit on the two great sources of energy in this tremendous poem.

Broken rhythm would probably be as good a name as any for the interesting system of prosody Hopkins worked out for himself (pretty much in isolation, where one often finds a surprising freedom once having stepped away from the crowd). His own name for it was sprung rhythm. What it amounts to is an accentual prosody, counting only the stressed syllables, so that a "foot", in the actual practise of this measure, may contain as few as one and as many as four syllables. Hopkins readily acknowledged that he did not invent this system, that in fact it went back to the origins of English poetry (from Piers Plowman to Thomas Wyatt, English poetry had been accentual rather than syllabic in its counting-system). He also thought, and rightly, that such a system also comes much closer than the standard syllable-counted metres to the sound of spoken English (and for that matter also to nursery rhymes & other forms of folk poetry). So it's both "eccentric" and "natural" at the same time.

As to the eroticism in this poem, that's undeniable and to us, more or less outright; though this would certainly be an instance of the full meaning of the poem going well beyond the conscious intention stashed therein by the poet. Often the poem may mean to say what the poet did not. Sexual tension has always provided one of the great energies of poetry, sometimes all the more powerful for the intent to subdue it. The cultural straitjacket of Victorianism is perhaps in this case turned into a coat of many colours worn by a poet who suffered for the suppression of his sexuality, felt empathy for the sufferings of others in ways he might not have felt had he been "better-adjusted", experienced the beauty of sexuality in a strange twisted way that was mixed up with the experience of the total beauty of the world, and came out of it depressed, unhappy, ill, a quiet embarrassment to his family and to the Jesuit order in which he had been ordained after undergoing a "conversion" at Oxford -- and a poet of altogether singular quality. The image of the young blacksmith which I've placed beneath the poem perhaps speaks out of this complex, to an age in which we see all these things, if we see anything at all, in what are probably very different ways.

I am always grateful for any great poem, at the same time it is impossible to say that the complications and displacements required to create it were/are in every case, or for that matter in any case, a source of fun for the person who wrote it.

Ed Baker said...

Tee See ..

I counted syllables onct it was a course requirement ... so,
I chooze (to scan putting those funny marks over different nemes and memes and stresses and units of)
the poems was Ths Wyatt the Elder's "they flee from me that sometimes did me seek"

I got a D- for my effort. The professor rote on my paper "You don't know what you're doing, See me after class."

me thinks that it is "crazy making" to be forcing/bending "thinking" intp words that make prescribed , formulaic lines, poems...


so
just maybe, Hopkins AND the 47 originals 'out there' pretended to be crazy-sick-drunkards-buffoons-etc merely in order to maintain their sanity?

only problem with pretending is
that one
tends to become what they pretend to be


anyway I think that I have read only one other Hopkins poem but I cant recall it... I tend to want to say

"wasn't his Ball Turret Gunner poem ter-rif-ic ? but I know that he didn't write that one ... James Dickey did

heck maybe I should start counting syllables:

1ne, 2wo, 3hree, 4our shut the door
5ive, 6ix, 7even, 8ight kiss me !

and

as far as being in a crowd or part of one

nothing much happens in a crowd .... ever

Conrad DiDiodato said...

"In any case, to go among the poor, to offer care, to aid and to assuage, and to speak of these experiences and circumstances from the heart, and to the heart, would certainly not be listed among the enterprises of the celebrity poets of our day.

Which is why their works speak to no one and are so soon forgot."

Tom, you made my day with this one!

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

And such a great discussion of this poem ... thanks for the explication, Tom, and Ed, too, for perspective.

Tom, this is the line that just jumps right out at me and screams to me:

"Often the poem may mean to say what the poet did not."

Beyond that, the last verse and, previously, the meter which accentuates "rhyming" of "contended" "impatient" "mended" and "anointed" all has my head swimming. Masterly.

Jonathan Chant said...

Thanks for pointing me in this direction. Beautiful poem, broken rhythm.

TC said...

Let it be hereby known by all presents that the resident was once again put in mind of this great poem by its family relation with another:

Jonathan Chant: The Blacksmith