“Felix Randal the farrier”: Visiting the Sick JAMES FINN COTTER erard Manley Hopkins wrote “Felix Randal” while stationed at the Je- Gsuit church St. Francis Xavier in Liverpool, and he dated the sonnet “April 28 1880.” Nine de cades later, Alfred Thomas, S.J., announced in the Times Literary Supplement that Hopkins had entered in the church notice book the name of one “Felix Spencer,” who died on 21 April 1880, and had read his name from the pulpit on Sunday, April 25. Spencer was a blacksmith or far- rier whose shop was in the slum area of the parish; as a priest, Hopkins had visited him to bring him the sacraments and consolation since his assignment to the parish on 30 December 1879. The poet changed the name to “Randal” to hide the man’s true identity but perhaps had in mind “Lord Randal my son,” the subject of a popu lar medieval ballad. Although the poem is a sonnet, it also serves as an elegy and dramatic monologue and ballad dealing with the subject of death. Hopkins pictures himself just at the moment of hearing the news of the farrier’s death: Felix Randal the farrier, O is he dead then? my duty all
Victorian Poetry – West Virginia University Press
Published: Oct 5, 2018
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