I have to disagree with Social Matter. Hopkins syntax is challenging, not because he is preaching, but because he is pleading. He is trying to explain this dark night of his soul: this despair. This sonnet breaks all the rues of Sonnets. But it should be considered as one.
Carrion comfort is fleshly: to let one’s desires reign. Such has led to speculation that Hopkins burned with desire illicitly. False. He was a Victorian, and seeking righteous.
Knowing that in that discipline was pain. He would have read the Anglican anatomies of melancholy and the dark night of St John of the Cross. But knowing it is different from living it.
Hopkins lived it, and I pray that I never do.
Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist – slack they may be – these last strands of man
In me or, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wich day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my buisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?
Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear,
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, cheer.
Cheer whóm though? The héro whose heáven-handling flúng me, fóot tród
Me? Or mé that fóught him? O whích one? is it eách one? That níght, that year
Of now done darkness I wretched lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.
Gerard Manley Hopkins.
The aim of the religious life is to unite your will with the will of God. Those of us who are secular are distracted by other things, for we have wives, and children, and dogs. We care for the things of the world because we have a duty, and a natural desire to care for such. We do not give our children scorpions.
Neither does God.
But those who stand tor him in times of darkness pay a cost. As Hopkins did: in pain. Physical, emotional and spiritual. For it is with our doing duty when there appears to be no soil, merely rock and dust, that may be giving the greatest glory to God.