Felix Randal Poem Analysis, Questions and Answers

Poem Summary

“Felix Randal” is a poem written by the English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins in 1880. The poem is a tribute to a blacksmith named Felix Randal, who was a patient of Hopkins during his time as a priest in Liverpool.

The poem begins with a description of Felix Randal as a strong, proud man, who is now weakened by his illness. Hopkins marvels at how the blacksmith’s strong arms, which were once able to wield a hammer with ease, are now weak and trembling.

The poem then shifts to a discussion of the blacksmith’s fate, and the inevitability of death. Hopkins reflects on the fact that death comes for everyone, regardless of their strength or station in life. He describes the sound of the blacksmith’s breath, which has become labored and strained, as a reminder of the fragility of life.

Hopkins then turns his attention to the spiritual side of Felix Randal’s illness, and the role that faith plays in his life. He notes that the blacksmith has turned to religion in his illness, and that his suffering has brought him closer to God. Hopkins suggests that Felix Randal’s suffering has given him a deeper understanding of the human condition, and a greater appreciation for the value of life.

The poem ends with a reflection on the passing of time, and the inevitability of death. Hopkins notes that even the strongest and most vital among us will one day face the end of life, and that we must all be prepared for this eventuality. However, he suggests that even in the face of death, there is hope, and that the blacksmith’s faith has given him a sense of peace and acceptance in the face of his mortality.

In “Felix Randal,” Hopkins uses vivid imagery and a powerful sense of rhythm to create a moving tribute to a man who is facing his own mortality. The poem reflects on the inevitability of death, but also celebrates the strength of the human spirit and the power of faith to sustain us in difficult times.

Felix Randal: Poem

BY GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS

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 ever he 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!

Video: Grade 12 Poetry: ‘Felix Randal’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Questions and Answers

Here are some questions and answers that can help you understand and analyze the poem:

Q: Who is Felix Randal? A: Felix Randal is the subject of the poem. He is a blacksmith who has recently died.

Q: What is the structure of the poem? A: The poem is composed of seven stanzas of varying lengths. It does not follow a strict rhyme scheme or meter, but it does use alliteration and repetition.

Q: What is the tone of the poem? A: The tone of the poem is one of sadness and grief. The narrator mourns the death of Felix Randal and reflects on the meaning of life and death.

Q: What is the meaning of the poem? A: The poem explores the themes of death, grief, and the meaning of life. The narrator mourns the death of Felix Randal and reflects on the fragility and fleeting nature of life. The poem also suggests that even in death, there is a beauty and dignity to life.

Q: What is the significance of the blacksmith imagery? A: The blacksmith imagery serves as a metaphor for the shaping of life. The narrator compares Felix Randal to a blacksmith who shapes metal, suggesting that life is shaped and molded by our experiences and the people we encounter.

Q: What is the significance of the phrase “ah well, God rest him all road ever he offended of it willingly or unwilllingly knowing you it”? A: This phrase suggests that even if Felix Randal did something wrong or “offended” God, he will still be forgiven and welcomed into heaven. It also implies a sense of acceptance and resignation to the inevitability of death.

Q: Who is the speaker of the poem? A: The speaker of the poem is not identified, but it is likely that the narrator is a priest or religious figure who is providing comfort to those who are grieving the death of Felix Randal.

Q: What is the significance of the line “pining, pining”? A: The repetition of the word “pining” emphasizes the narrator’s sadness and grief over the death of Felix Randal. It also suggests a sense of longing or yearning for something that can no longer be attained.

Felix Randal Poem Analysis

Stanza 1 

Line 1 

Felix Randal the farrier, O is he dead then? my duty all ended, 

farrier – Blacksmith whose main job is the shoeing of horses. A physically demanding job. 

Hopkins’ reaction to the news that Felix is dead is neither sorrow nor joy but a comment that Hopkins own duty toward Felix is “all-ended”. 

O is he dead then – the tone is casual, as if he was talking to somebody who has just informed him of the death of Felix. He appears unmoved at hearing of Felix’s death. 

my duty all ended – his first thoughts are about himself. His duty as a priest has ended. Duty suggests that he had attended to the last rites simply because that is what a priest was supposed to do. This creates a sense of detachment. 

watched – He has been present and saw how the sickness has changed the dead man. 



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