A Close Reading of “I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

“I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day” is a poem that describes the wait for the second coming of Christ. In the first line, Hopkins illustrates the heaviness of the darkness with the use of alliteration in “feel the fell” (1). The weight of the metaphorical shadows is repressive and constrictive. The darkness is the manifestation of a world without God. In the dark, the speaker is unable to see clearly as one is blind without the guidance of God. The “black hours” (2) that the speaker has wasted, denotes to the hours on Earth one spent stumbling. In the third line, the poet mentions the heart. Hopkins believes that the heart is the organ that can truly see. The heart saw where “you” went, referring to where the disappearance of the God in one’s life. The “light’s delay” (4) is an allusion to the second coming that has yet to come, mentioned in the book of Revelation. The light is a metaphor for both God and the second coming of Jesus, as the world is to be consumed by flames. The hours, years and life span mentioned in the sixth line expresses the unknown amount of time that one is waiting for their death to reunite with their God. The uncertainty of time also refers to the indefinite wait for all believers, until the second coming. Those who are “dearest [to] him”(8) will live in the heavens for eternity.

In the second stanza, the speaker expresses the pain of one who was not saved from the depths of Hell after the second coming. The “heartburn” (9) describes the pain and brokenness of one who was rejected at the Gates of Heaven. Had the speaker been subjected to the unfortunate fate, the bitterness would be defined by the speaker’s sadness (10). The “bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse” (11) is a line that is another example of alliteration. Line eleven illustrates the reason for the speaker’s fate in Hell, is not in his control as it is a curse. The curse also implies the negativity and doom one would be subjected to in Hell. The spirit of “a dull dough [is] sour” (12) and the mention of “selfyeast” refers to the lack of change made possible by oneself. “The lost” (13) are a reference to the souls that are trapped in Hell as their “scourge” (13) was cursed upon them. The speaker relates to the pain of the lost souls as the fear of one’s own fate approaches.

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