Gerard Manley Hopkins was a talented poet, and he was also extremely devoted to his faith. He used his poetry as an avenue in which to express his love and praise to his Creator, and many of his poems are beautiful hymns of adoration. “Carrion Comfort,” however, is one of his “terrible sonnets.” Hopkins not only wrote about the beautiful part of faith, but also the questioning and suffering that inevitably comes during a person’s spiritual journey.
The Petrarchan or Italian sonnet was one of Hopkins’s favorite forms of poetry and one that he employed frequently in his writing. Hopkins enjoyed the fusion of form and content, and the structure of an Italian sonnet perfectly lends itself to such a synthesis. An Italian sonnet is divided into two parts, the octave and the sestet. The first eight lines have an ABBAABBA rhyme scheme and the sestet concludes with CDCDCD. The content of an Italian sonnet is very specifically and thematically organized as is the content of Hopkins’s “Carrion Comfort.” The octave is divided into two quatrains, which present and then develop, respectively, a problem or situation on which the poem focuses. The sestet relates the answer or solution to the problem. The transition between the two sections of the poem can be easily identified through dramatic punctuation, or a distinct change in tone. The octave in “Carrion Comfort” powerfully illustrates intense suffering and despair experienced by the speaker. Hopkins masterfully depicts the transformation from the utter despair caused by this suffering to hope and reconciliation with God as he makes a transition into the sestet. Throughout the poem, Hopkins uses various poetic elements, such as th...
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...feast on thee;
Not untwist--slack they may be--these last strands of man
In me or, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? Scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruised bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee
Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh,
Cheer whom though? The hero whose heaven-handling flung me, foot
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That
night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.
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