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.

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Over the years I’ve become increasingly interested in the lyrical nature of poetry. I find that the more I’ve taken in...

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