Language and tone in Carrion Comfort

Hopkins the victim

Hopkins mentions to Bridges that one of his sonnets about this time ‘was written in blood'. It is assumed he meant this one - the tone is so desperate, it goes well beyond the soul-searching of the confession:

  • Particularly agonising are such phrases as

‘me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?'

  • The repetition of ‘me' is echoed in the sestet with the equally harrowing ‘me's of the questions
  • Hopkins creates a complicated adjectival phrase: ‘the hero whose heaven-handling flung me, foot trod Me?' To paraphrase: ‘Is this consolation meant to cheer me, who have experienced my hero flinging me about as part of his divine purposes (‘heaven-handling') and also his foot treading on me?'

That is one ‘me'. (For a biblical echo, read Lamentations 3:1-32)

Hopkins the combatant

The other ‘me' is the one ‘that fought him' (as Jacob did Genesis 32:24-30). The two ‘me's of the divided personality echo New Testament writer Paul, when he says in a chapter that deals entirely with the divided personality:

‘O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' (Romans 7:24 TNIV)

Compounds and alliteration

  • Lastly, we must note Hopkins' compounds: ‘lionlimb'; ‘wring-world', ‘heaven-handling'.
  • The alliterative patterns are much less obvious here than elsewhere, but still draw attention to themselves: ‘right foot rock'; ‘darksome devouring'.
  • Internal rhymes similarly occur briefly but effectively: ‘sheer and clear'; ‘toil, that coil'.
  • ‘rude' means ‘roughly, uncouthly'
Investigating Carrion Comfort
  • Look at the number of monosyllables.
    • What effect does such a large proportion have on the reading of the sonnet?
  • What other devices indicate the passion or torment in which Hopkins is writing?
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