'Carrion Comfort' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist -- slack they may be -- these last strands of man
In me {'o}r, 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 bruis{`e}d bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avo{'i}d thee and

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 wh{'o}m though? The h{'e}ro whose h{'e}aven-handling fl{'u}ng
me, f{'o}ot tr{'o}d
Me? or m{'e} that f{'o}ught him? O wh{'i}ch one? is it e{'a}ch one? That
n{'i}ght, that y{'e}ar
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Carrion Comfort: A Masterpiece of Artistic Expression

Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Carrion Comfort" is a remarkable piece of literature that has attracted the attention of scholars, students, and poetry enthusiasts for over a century. This sonnet, written in Hopkins' characteristic style, is a powerful and emotional expression of the poet's spiritual struggles and his attempt to find solace in the face of adversity. In this literary criticism, we will explore the themes, motifs, and imagery in "Carrion Comfort," and examine the poem's relevance and significance in the context of Hopkins' life and works.

The Sonnet Form and Hopkins' Style

Before we delve into the poem itself, it is worth noting that "Carrion Comfort" is a sonnet, a form of poetry that has been popular since the Italian Renaissance. A sonnet is a poem composed of 14 lines, usually with a strict rhyme scheme and meter. Hopkins, however, was not a strict adherent to traditional forms and often experimented with rhythm, rhyme, and syntax. His poetry is characterized by his use of "sprung rhythm," a musical and complex system of meter that allows for variations in syllable length and accent. This use of rhythm, combined with his vivid and unconventional imagery, makes Hopkins' poetry instantly recognizable and unique.

Themes and Motifs in "Carrion Comfort"

"Carrion Comfort" is a deeply personal and emotional poem, and its themes and motifs reflect Hopkins' own struggles with depression, doubt, and religious faith. The poem begins with a stark and dramatic image: "Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee." The speaker is addressing a force or entity that he calls "carrion comfort," which can be interpreted as a metaphor for depression or despair. The speaker is declaring his intention not to succumb to this force, not to give in to despair and hopelessness.

The next two lines introduce another theme that runs throughout the poem: the speaker's search for comfort and solace in his relationship with God. "Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man / In me or, most weary, cry I can no more. I can." Here, the speaker acknowledges that he is at the end of his rope, that he is exhausted and can no longer bear the weight of his struggles. But he also asserts that he is not willing to give up, that he will continue to seek comfort and relief from his pain.

Throughout the rest of the poem, we see the speaker wrestling with his doubts and fears, but also finding moments of hope and grace. He speaks of "pitch of grief" and "nightmare" that threaten to overcome him, but he also describes moments of "sweet, sane, certitude" and "bright wings" that lift him up. The poem ends with a powerful declaration of faith and surrender: "Let me be fell: force I must be brief." The speaker is willing to be "fell," or overcome, by the force of God, to be humbled and transformed by the divine.

Imagery and Language

Hopkins' use of language and imagery in "Carrion Comfort" is masterful and evocative. The poem is full of vivid metaphors and symbols that capture the speaker's emotional state and his search for meaning and hope. One of the most striking images in the poem is that of the "pangs of despised love." Here, the speaker is comparing his emotional pain to the agony of rejection and unrequited love. This image is particularly powerful because it suggests that the speaker's struggle is not just spiritual or intellectual, but also deeply emotional and personal.

Another powerful image in the poem is that of the "pitch of grief." This phrase is particularly evocative because it captures the sense of heaviness and darkness that the speaker is experiencing. The word "pitch" suggests something thick, sticky, and difficult to move through, while "grief" conveys a sense of deep sadness and loss. Together, these words create a potent image of the speaker's emotional state.

Throughout the poem, Hopkins also uses a number of religious symbols and metaphors, such as "the rod," "the cross," and "the yoke." These symbols are used to suggest the speaker's relationship with God and his understanding of his own suffering. For example, the symbol of the yoke suggests a sense of submission and surrender to a higher power, while the symbol of the cross evokes the Christian notion of redemption and sacrifice.

Significance and Relevance

"Carrion Comfort" is a timeless masterpiece of poetic expression that continues to resonate with readers today. Its themes of doubt, despair, and faith are universal and timeless, and its powerful imagery and language speak directly to the human experience. The poem is particularly relevant in the context of Hopkins' own life and works, as it reflects his struggles with depression and his search for spiritual meaning and solace.

In conclusion, "Carrion Comfort" is a powerful and emotionally charged poem that captures the depth and complexity of human experience. Its themes, motifs, and imagery are masterfully crafted, and its relevance and significance continue to inspire and challenge readers today. As Hopkins himself writes in the final lines of the poem, "let me be fell: force I must be brief." Let us be open to the force of this poem, and allow its brevity to move us to greater understanding and compassion.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Gerard Manley Hopkins is one of the most celebrated poets of the Victorian era, and his works continue to inspire and captivate readers to this day. One of his most famous poems, "Carrion Comfort," is a powerful exploration of the human experience of suffering and the search for spiritual solace.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing an unknown entity, which he refers to as "my comfort." This comfort, however, is described as "carrion," or the decaying flesh of dead animals. This juxtaposition of comfort and decay sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as the speaker grapples with the paradoxical nature of suffering and the search for meaning in the face of it.

The first stanza of the poem is filled with images of despair and hopelessness. The speaker describes himself as "worn out with despair" and "baffled with fear." He feels as though he is drowning in a sea of suffering, unable to find any relief or escape. The use of alliteration in this stanza, with words like "worn," "weary," and "wrecked," emphasizes the speaker's sense of exhaustion and defeat.

In the second stanza, the speaker turns to the idea of faith as a source of comfort. He acknowledges that he has "cried, 'No mortal, no!" in the face of his suffering, but now he is willing to turn to a higher power for help. He asks for "the comfort of the fire," which can be interpreted as a reference to the Holy Spirit or the purifying power of God's love. The use of the word "fire" also suggests a sense of urgency and intensity, as though the speaker is desperate for relief.

The third stanza is perhaps the most powerful in the poem, as the speaker grapples with the paradox of suffering and the search for meaning. He acknowledges that his suffering has made him feel as though he is "bereft of thee, my joys, my dear ones, my own." He has lost everything that once brought him happiness and comfort, and he is left with nothing but his pain. However, he also recognizes that this suffering has brought him closer to God, and he is willing to endure it if it means he can be closer to the divine. He says, "I can no more," but then immediately contradicts himself by saying, "I can; / But dread to show my spilth and humbled vein." This internal struggle between despair and hope, between the desire for relief and the willingness to endure, is at the heart of the poem.

The final stanza of the poem is a plea for divine intervention. The speaker asks God to "pluck my foot out of the net" and to "break my heart." This may seem like a strange request, but it is actually a reference to the idea of the "dark night of the soul," a period of intense spiritual struggle and purification. The speaker is asking God to help him through this difficult time, even if it means breaking him down completely.

Overall, "Carrion Comfort" is a powerful exploration of the human experience of suffering and the search for spiritual solace. The poem is filled with vivid imagery and intense emotion, and it speaks to the universal human desire for meaning and purpose in the face of adversity. Hopkins' use of paradox and contradiction adds depth and complexity to the poem, and it is this complexity that has made it a classic of English literature.

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