Hopkins is comparing our lives to a journey, as we wander through a dark marsh, each carrying our own lantern. As we walk, we meet others along the way, and there is friendship. But then they walk ahead of us, and we lose them:
SOMETIMES a lantern moves along the night,
That interests our eyes. And who goes there?
I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where,
With, all down darkness wide, his wading light?
Men go by me whom either beauty bright
In mould or mind or what not else makes rare:
They rain against our much-thick and marsh air
Rich beams, till death or distance buys them quite.
Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.
Christ minds: Christ’s interest, what to avow or amend
There, éyes them, heart wánts, care haúnts, foot fóllows kínd,
Their ránsom, théir rescue, ánd first, fást, last friénd.
The point of all love is the good of the other person. For them to be fully and beautifully their true self, in all their quirks and dearness, a kind of consummation of their true being, in the heart of God. It is not about us and them, it is about them and God. So it is OK that we lose people on this earth. They are not meant for us. They are meant for God. He will keep all the promises we broke, and He will fulfill all that is lost. They shall be happy in God, truly and fully themself, with joy and holiness. That is all that matters.