Felix Randal summary

Hopkins through his sonnet Felix Randal sketches images of a long illness and death of a farrier called Felix Randal. The speaker observes that the ‘big-boned and hardy-handsome’ man had reduced and declined to ‘some fatal four disorder.’

As a man’s body is overtaken by aggravating illness, he loses his sense of perception and reasoning. Being a priest the poet then moves on to the topic of spiritual healing.

The irony of physically strong man giving into an ailment is highly focused here. Felix goes through extreme suffering before he succumbs to death. 

During this time of suffering there is a mutual bond formed between the healer and the healed. A bond of trust and compassionate care is built. 

Through kindness and empathy, the priest is able to heal the sufferer’s soul, which in turn becomes the cause of the former’s salvation. The word “us” in the poem puts an emphasis on the mutuality of the bond.
‘My tongue had taught thee comfort; touch had quenched thy tears,
Thy tears that touched my heart, child, Felix, poor Felix Randal;’
Though the priest is not able to heal Randal physically, the former is able to provide the latter with a mental peace in his final moments in the deathbed.

The death of his long-suffering companion left a deep imprint on the priest’s life as well. While comforting him, the priest too is able to find his path of salvation and internal peace.

Both seek the Lord’s forgiveness and at the end, the farrier willingly accepts his fate and places his life in the hands of the Lord.
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