Study Guide

Carrion Comfort Sadness

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Get your hankies ready. "Carrion Comfort" is all about sadness, but it's not your typical "Bummer, somebody ate the last of the pecan sandies" kind of sadness. It's more about deep, dark, practically all-encompassing despair. The speaker of the poem has just come through what sounds like an intense bout of depression. And Hopkins would know a thing or two about that sort of thing. This poem is one of his "terrible sonnets," which he wrote after being totally bummed out by his experiences living in Dublin, Ireland—where he underwent a spiritual crisis, doubted his artistic abilities, caught typhoid fever, and died. Now that, folks, is some serious sadness.

Questions About Sadness

  1. What's so "comforting" about Despair? How might the speaker answer that question?
  2. What do you think brought about the speaker's sadness in the first place? What parts of the poem give you your ideas?
  3. Since he's looking back on his depression (and not currently experiencing it), does the speaker's sadness seem less convincing to you? Why or why not?
  4. What, if anything, is the use of sadness? How might the speaker answer that question?

Chew on This

The sadness that the speaker experiences in this poem is necessary to his spiritual awakening.

This poem is not sad at all. In fact, it's an inspiration to anyone who faces difficulty in his or her life.

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