Study Guide to “I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day”

Study Guide to “I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day”

Sometimes seen as the darkest of Hopkins’s dark sonnets of 1885, this poem offers almost no hope in the depths of spiritual and mental anguish. It is likely one of the four sonnets Hopkins claimed “came like inspirations unbidden and against my will.”

Here are some things to think about regarding this poem:

  • In his “Rules for the Discernment of Spirits” St. Ignatius gives the following recommendation: “Let him who is in desolation labour to be in patience, contrary to the vexations that come to him; and let him think that he will soon be consoled” (first series, rule eight). Is the speaker of this poem patient? How does this poem portray the process of patience?
  •  Notice the poem’s images of taste, food, and eating. Why does Hopkins use these images to refer to the self and to the experience of spiritual desolation?
  • What is the nature of the “scourge” which “the lost” face at the poem’s conclusion (l. 13)? How do you judge the speaker’s finding comfort in comparing his situation to that of “the lost”?
  • Like earlier poems (especially “As kingfishers catch fire“), this poem is preoccupied with “selving.” Is the process different or the same in this poem compared to earlier poems?

For this poem you might want to be familiar with the following terms from the Hopkins Terminology:
alliteration | assonance | consonant-chiming | inscape | instress | parallelism | sprung rhythm

Back to “I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.”