'The Windhover: To Christ Our Lord' by Gerard Manley Hopkins


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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: sher pld makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.


Anonymous submission.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Beauty and Majesty of Gerard Manley Hopkins' "The Windhover: To Christ Our Lord"

Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the most celebrated poets of the Victorian era, wrote "The Windhover: To Christ Our Lord" in 1877. The poem is a sonnet, containing fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, and is widely considered one of Hopkins' finest works.

This masterpiece of a poem is not only a tribute to Christ but also an exquisite example of Hopkins' unique style, which he called "sprung rhythm." In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will analyze the poem's form, content, and meaning, exploring how Hopkins' language and imagery create a powerful religious experience for the reader.

Form: The Structure of the Poem

Hopkins' "The Windhover" is a sonnet, consisting of fourteen lines divided into two stanzas: the octave (eight lines) and the sestet (six lines). The poem is written in iambic pentameter, a rhythmic pattern consisting of five pairs of stressed and unstressed syllables per line. However, Hopkins deviates from this traditional pattern by using a technique he called "sprung rhythm."

Sprung rhythm is a complex system of metric patterns that Hopkins invented, in which the stresses in a line can vary, but the number of syllables remains constant. Hopkins achieves this by using a combination of accented and unaccented syllables in each foot, creating a more natural and spontaneous rhythm that mimics the irregularity of speech.

In "The Windhover," Hopkins uses the sonnet form and sprung rhythm to convey both the beauty and majesty of Christ, and the speaker's emotional response to Him. The poem's structure is deliberately designed to build in intensity, beginning with a description of the bird's flight, moving to the speaker's emotional response and culminating in a final declaration of faith and devotion.

Content: The Bird, the Windhover, and Christ

In "The Windhover," Hopkins draws a parallel between the bird's flight and Christ's crucifixion, suggesting that the bird is a symbol of Christ's divinity and sacrifice. The poem opens with a description of the bird in flight:

" 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"

The bird is described in a series of images, which include the "kingdom of daylight's dauphin" and the "dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon." Hopkins' use of alliteration and hyphenated adjectives creates a sense of movement and energy, drawing the reader into the bird's flight.

Hopkins also uses a variety of sound devices to create a sense of the windhover's power and majesty. In line 3, for example, he uses assonance to create a sense of the bird's soaring:

"His wings ... gather'd for a dive"

The repetition of the "i" sound creates a sense of movement and energy, which is reinforced by the alliteration of "wings" and "gather'd."

The poem's octave builds in intensity, moving from a description of the bird's flight to the speaker's emotional response:

"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!"

Here, the speaker addresses the bird directly, using a series of exclamations to convey his awe and admiration. He describes the bird's "brute beauty and valour and act," and then exclaims "oh, air, pride, plume, here buckle!" The use of exclamation marks creates a sense of excitement and urgency, drawing the reader into the speaker's emotional response.

In the sestet, Hopkins shifts the focus from the bird to Christ:

"I say more: the just man justices; Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces; Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is - Christ."

Here, Hopkins suggests that the bird is not only a symbol of Christ's divinity and sacrifice, but also a symbol of the speaker's faith and devotion. The speaker declares that Christ is the "just man" who "justices," and that he acts in God's eye what he is in God's eye. This final declaration of faith and devotion is a powerful conclusion to the poem, reinforcing the speaker's emotional response and creating a profound religious experience for the reader.

Meaning: Religion and Spirituality

At its core, "The Windhover" is a deeply spiritual poem, exploring themes of religion, sacrifice, and redemption. Hopkins uses the bird as a symbol of Christ's divinity and sacrifice, suggesting that the beauty and majesty of the natural world are reflections of God's love and grace.

In "The Windhover," Hopkins also explores the relationship between faith and emotion, suggesting that faith is not simply a matter of belief but also an emotional response to the beauty and majesty of the natural world. The speaker's emotional response to the bird's flight is a powerful expression of his faith and devotion, reinforcing the idea that faith is not simply a matter of intellect but also of the heart.

Finally, "The Windhover" is a tribute to the power of language and imagery to convey religious experience. Hopkins' use of sprung rhythm, alliteration, and assonance creates a sense of movement and energy, drawing the reader into the bird's flight and the speaker's emotional response. The poem is a testament to the power of language to express the beauty and majesty of the natural world, and the religious experience it inspires.

Conclusion: A Masterpiece of Victorian Poetry

Gerard Manley Hopkins' "The Windhover: To Christ Our Lord" is a masterpiece of Victorian poetry, blending form and content to create a profound religious experience for the reader. Hopkins' use of sprung rhythm, alliteration, and assonance creates a sense of movement and energy, drawing the reader into the bird's flight and the speaker's emotional response. The poem is a powerful tribute to the beauty and majesty of the natural world, and the spiritual experience it inspires.

As a language model, I don't have emotions to express, but the beauty of the poem is such that it calls for an emotional response from even a machine, and one can only imagine the effect it had on the readers of its time. Hopkins' use of language and imagery is unparalleled, and "The Windhover" remains a testament to his mastery of the craft of poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Windhover: To Christ Our Lord - A Masterpiece of Poetry

Gerard Manley Hopkins, a renowned English poet, wrote The Windhover: To Christ Our Lord in 1877. The poem is a masterpiece of poetry that has captivated readers for over a century. The Windhover is a sonnet that describes the beauty and majesty of a bird in flight, the windhover, and its relationship to Christ. The poem is a celebration of the beauty of nature and the glory of God.

The Windhover is a complex poem that requires careful analysis to fully appreciate its beauty and meaning. The poem is divided into two parts, the first eight lines, and the final six lines. The first eight lines describe the windhover in flight, while the final six lines describe the speaker's reaction to the bird's flight.

The poem begins with the speaker observing the windhover in flight. The bird is described as "dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon" (line 1), which suggests that the bird is a falcon with a mottled appearance. The use of alliteration in this line emphasizes the bird's movement and grace. The speaker then describes the bird's flight as "kingdom of daylight's dauphin" (line 2), which suggests that the bird is the prince of the day. The use of the word "kingdom" emphasizes the bird's power and majesty.

The speaker then describes the bird's flight as "his riding / Of the rolling level underneath him steady air" (lines 3-4). The use of enjambment in these lines emphasizes the bird's fluid movement and grace. The bird is then described as "blue-bleak embers" (line 5), which suggests that the bird is a symbol of fire and passion. The use of alliteration in this line emphasizes the bird's intensity and energy.

The speaker then describes the bird's flight as "my heart in hiding / Stirred for a bird" (lines 6-7). The use of enjambment in these lines emphasizes the speaker's emotional response to the bird's flight. The speaker's heart is described as "in hiding," which suggests that the speaker's emotions are hidden or suppressed. The use of the word "stirred" emphasizes the speaker's emotional response to the bird's flight.

The final line of the first eight lines is "the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!" (line 8). This line emphasizes the bird's mastery of flight and suggests that the bird is a symbol of perfection and beauty.

The final six lines of the poem describe the speaker's reaction to the bird's flight. The speaker describes the bird as "Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here / Buckle!" (lines 9-10). The use of alliteration in these lines emphasizes the bird's strength and power. The speaker then describes the bird as "With a sudden sharp hot stink of fox" (line 11), which suggests that the bird is a predator and a symbol of strength and power.

The speaker then describes the bird's flight as "the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding / High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing" (lines 12-13). The use of enjambment in these lines emphasizes the bird's fluid movement and grace. The bird is then described as "the beauty / That sets the fawn-skin / More fleet than fawn-skin" (lines 14-16). This line emphasizes the bird's beauty and suggests that the bird is a symbol of grace and elegance.

The final line of the poem is "How he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing / In his ecstasy!" (lines 13-14). This line emphasizes the bird's joy and suggests that the bird is a symbol of happiness and freedom.

The Windhover: To Christ Our Lord is a complex poem that requires careful analysis to fully appreciate its beauty and meaning. The poem is a celebration of the beauty of nature and the glory of God. The windhover is a symbol of perfection, beauty, and grace, and its flight is a symbol of freedom and happiness. The poem is a masterpiece of poetry that has captivated readers for over a century, and it will continue to do so for generations to come.

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