Write a critical appreciation of the poem Felix Randal  by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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lprono | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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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?
The poem is elegiac in tone as the poetic I, a Roman Catholic priest,  remembers the vigor and strength of Felix Randal, a blacksmith to whom the priest adminstered the last sacraments, who is now dead. This unhappy situation contrasts with the title of the poem and name of the man (Felix) which means "happy" in Latin.
 
Felix Randal reaches its emotional climax in line 11, when we understand that the two men, different though they might be as far as education, social class and status were concerned, shared an intimate friendship. It is also possible, of course, to go beyond the idea of friendship and see the poem as homoerotic as the speaking I seems to be fascinated with male beauty whose metaphor or, in modernist terms, its objective correlative (its material equivalent in the material world, its objectification) is the final image of the horse.
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