By Gerard Manley Hopkins
‘The Windhover’ was written by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) in 1877, but, like many of Hopkins’s poems, was not published until 1918, long after his death.
It’s one of his most widely anthologised poems and some analysis of it may help readers to appreciate it as a curious and interesting example of the sonnet form. So, what follows is a very brief analysis of the poem, designed to act as a short introduction to its linguistic power and its themes.
To Christ Our Lord
I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.