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The Windhover, by Gerard Manley Hopkins (Verbum Sacred Poem of the Week)

Welcome to Verbum’s new series on sacred poetry. Each week for the next several months we’re featuring entries from respected poets on divine subjects.

Today’s poem is “The Windhover.” All poetry is meant to be read aloud, and this poem especially benefits from it, due to the density of alliteration and unique rhyme scheme.

The Windhover
By Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

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.

Discussion questions:

  • What is the windhover, from the poem’s title? (Hint: it’s in line 2, repeated in line 8.)
  • What about the falcon’s flight stirred the poet’s heart?
  • What colors do you see in the poem? How does Hopkins use colors to tie the falcon to other things in the natural world?

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Read more poetry from Gerard Manley Hopkins in the book Hopkins, available in Verbum.

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