April 29, 2014

Poem: The Windhover

How He Rung Upon The Rein Of A Wimpling Wing In His Ecstasy 

The Windhover is a sonnet by the English poet and Jesuit Priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889). It was composed on May 30, 1877, but was not published until 1918. Windhover is another name for the Common Kestrel, a type of Falcon. It is used here as a metaphor for Christ. Hopkins considered it his best work. The Windhover is included in the Religious Poetry Appendix for Lent and Easter of the Divine Office (1974).


THE WINDHOVER by Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1877 (Public Domain)

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
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.

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