Poem introduction

Felix Randal, the village blacksmith, was his parishioner when Hopkins was a curate in Liverpool and was tended by him in illness and often visited. Hopkins administered the last sacraments and officiated at his funeral when Felix finally died of tuberculosis. This is a warm and compassionate portrait of the blacksmith, but also a kindly self-portrait of Hopkins engaged in his pastoral duties. The poem celebrates the sanctity of work, physical and spiritual, and the reciprocal endearment between the sick man and his healer. But the life lived by the farrier, in all its great energy and fire, ultimately triumphs over death and grief, and we are left with something mythic, almost divine, in a last magnificent image of him at his forge, invoking also the power of the Creator.

Felix Randal

Felix Randal the farrier, O is he 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 he ever 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!

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Recordings

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins Downloads read by Mimi Khalvati

1Binsey Poplars

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2Spring and Fall

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3Felix Randal

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4Pied Beauty

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5Thou are indeed just, Lord, if I contend

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Books by Gerard Manley Hopkins