Although written in 1880, the poem, like the rest of Hopkins's poetic production was not published until the late 1910s, becoming an important influence for Modernist poetry. Hopkins was much more experimental than his fellow Victorian poets. This is clear in what he does with the form of Felix Randal, a Petrarchan or Italian (as opposed to the Shakespearian) sonnet. A sonnet is a highly codified literary form, with a precise rhyme-scheme (in this case abba, abba, ccd, ccd) and a fixed structure (14 lines divided in two quatrains and two tercets). Yet, even at a first glance, what strikes about Hopkins's sonnet is its emotional tension that is formally conveyed by the disruption of syntactic-poetic unity with a series of strong enjambements or run-on line. This means that a sentence does not finish in a single line, but runs onto the next one. See, for example lines 3 and 4:
Pining, pining, till time when reason rambled in it, and some/Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended?