Summary

  • Written during a tough period in Hopkin’s life, living in Liverpool.
  • Inspired by the death of a blacksmith parishioner whom he cared for.
  • This poem marks the change between his positivity about Nature and God to his dark sonnets.

Themes

  • Physical & Mental Suffering
    • Felix’s body decays as the four diseases fight to kill him. His mental suffering progresses with his condition, as his “reason rambles”. Felix represents the “black hours” of unimaginable suffering that Hopkins would later go through.
    • The poem depicts how a “big boned and hardy handsome” man like Felix can be left weaker than a child. The message is that we should not take our health for granted.
  • Man and God – Felix is a sinner. When he receives communion he becomes “heavenlier”. Christ is our “reprieve and ransom” that saves us from sin and death. We are reminiscent of Christ represented as “chevalier” in The Windhover.
  • Religious Doubt – This is the mark of change in Hopkins. This is the first time he has doubted his religion, and it is a prologue to the suffering of his terrible sonnets.

Language

  • Form – Petrarchan rhyme scheme. The first verse discusses Felix’s illness. In the sestet he meditates the meaning of it.
  • Assonance/Alliteration – “Mould of Man”, “Big boned and hardy handsome”, “Fatal Four”, “Reprieve and Ransom”.
  • Sound effects
    • Sound effects are used to create an atmosphere as breezy, carefree and energetic as Spring itself. Assonance & alliteration create this effect. It creates rich, euphonius music.
    • He uses nouns as verbs to lend a line some curious power. “Leaves.. blooms”