Themes in Carrion Comfort

The Temptation to Despair

Despair is a not uncommon feeling. Hopkins has had to face this, but in a brave opening, he rejects it as ‘carrion comfort'. The crux of his resistance is that there is always a choice, an alternative to suicide specifically, even if it is ‘not choose not to be', which must be the smallest, yet perhaps bravest, choice there is.

The temptation is also resisted by being totally honest. He sees God as a tyrant. A less honest person would not care to utter such a ‘non-politically correct' phrase - at least not PC for a priest. This forms the drama of the sonnet, as it becomes a confessional poem.

The Dark Night of the Soul

The ‘dark night' experience Hopkins refers to in the sestet appears to be in the past: ‘That night, that year...':

  • this might suggest the experience also described in the first part of The Wreck of the Deutschland
  • or, if this poem was revised some two years after it was written, he may merely be referring to a more recent past. This seems more in keeping with the tone, which does not suggest any sort of real, or at least settled, resolution to the inner turmoil.
Investigating Carrion Comfort
  • Do you see any other themes in the sonnet?
  • Is he ultimately concerned with
    • God's attitude to him?
    • or his to God?
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