My previous post spoke of Jacob's experience at the Ford of Jabbok when he wrestled with a man/angel/God. One of the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins refers to this episode from Genesis.

'Carrion Comfort' is an expression of Hopkins' determination not to succumb to despair. He battled against a gloomy and depressive nature through much of his adult life but died with the words 'I am so happy' on his lips. For me this poem seems to express an honest ambivalence about his calling to the monastic life and his personal struggle with suffering.

It speaks to me at a very deep level, because I too have a depressive nature and sometimes have ambivalent feelings about my own calling. I would be interested to hear other people's impressions of the poem and particularly whether you can relate to it and, if so, in what way.

Carrion Comfort

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, wish 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 bruised 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 whom though? the hero whose heaven-handling flung me, foot trod
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.

Gerard Manley Hopkins


  1. Anonymous  

    1 March 2010 at 23:49

    Phew this is so deep..which is characteristic in my experience of myself when struggling with dark times and of many people I know and work with who suffer in their minds.
    The inward struggle of depression and despair longing for a be different...he describes so well the inner conflict and despondency ..I guess so well because he is there and has been there...
    But the process...the journey..the end result of working it out...the light going on...the empowering strength of our mind..our ability to heal by thinking positively...talking ourselves out of downward spirals...
    And the end when he meets God...recognises with his God...the ambivalence..the recognition...
    awesome stuff...amazing man...
    Thanks Kath...God bless you x
    Im sure I have missed lots more in it but that is the joy of poetry... like faith..the benefit is in the personal interpretation!!


  2. Kay+  

    2 March 2010 at 02:44

    Hopkins works miracles with language. Somehow I'd never seen this one; it brought tears to my eyes as I read it out loud. It's repentant, defiant, proud, humble; I know something of what that feels like in wrestling with God.

  3. Kath Williamson  

    3 March 2010 at 23:13

    Thank you both for your comments. Yes, it's powerful stuff. Blessings to you both.

  4. Anonymous  

    7 December 2010 at 13:44

    I have just happenened onto your site and am thankful.

    Just a thought to share. I knew a woman I deeply respected, a shell of the woman I would have known had I met her 10 years before the wasting of MS, but a giant in spiritual growth. She had a diagnosis of Clinical depression - who wouldn't, reduced to near complete dependence, physically, on others - but the most wonderful affect. She shared with me about an encounter with a new physician, a neurologist specializing in Multiple Sclerosis. He was reviewing her medical history and said, "I see you suffer from depression." "No", she responded, "I battle depression". He looked confused and asked, "Aren't those the same thing?" She explained that to suffer depression made her feel victomized. To battle depression, with the Lord's help, made it a part of her journey and she was empowered to conquer ultimately. To her it made all the difference. And so to me.

    Blessing to you, Rachael

  5. Kath Williamson  

    7 December 2010 at 20:25

    Thank you Rachael. I shall remember those words of your friend.
    Blessings to you too - and to your friend (wherever she may be now).