In this sonnet Hopkins reflects on the long illness and death of Felix Randal, the farrier. The poet watched this "big-boned and hardy-handsome" man decline, until he was broken by "some / fatal four disorders" and his "reason rambled . . . . " At first Randal had railed against his fate, but later, anointed by the poet-priest, he developed a "heavenlier heart" and "sweet reprieve."

The poet reflects on his role as a spiritual healer: "This seeing the sick endears them to us, us too it endears." While the priestly tongue and touch refreshed Felix Randal in his illness, Randal's tears also touched the priest's heart, and so he is left with a sense of loss and mourning when the man dies.


The most important line (9) of this sonnet is: "This seeing the sick endears them to us, us too it endears." While the poet is actually a priest referring to spiritual healing, his sentiment expresses a central truth of any healing relationship. Caring for the ill (in the sense of doing things for them) leads to care for the ill (in the sense of connection and compassion); perhaps this is a re-statement of Aristotle's theory of virtue in which one becomes a virtuous person by performing good acts.

"Felix Randal" also demonstrates Gerard Manley Hopkins's magnificent technical virtuosity as a poet. It is an almost perfect Italian-style sonnet (two a-b-b-a rhymed quatrains [the octave] followed by two rhymed c-c-d stanzas [the sestet]).


Written in early 1880's. First published: 1918, posthumously.

Primary Source

Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins


Peter Pauper

Place Published

Mt. Vernon, N.Y.