The Windhover

I looked up and saw a kestrel – a windhover – framed in the window.  This is Gerald Manley Hopkins’ description.

The Windhover
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.

Hopkins thought this “the best thing I ever wrote”, although it wasn’t published in his lifetime.  Written in 1877, just before he entered the priesthood, its abstract form and language anticipated the modernist poetry of the 20th century.  Ploughing the field was a common medieval metaphor for a writer’s pen scratching across paper, with furrows corresponding to the rows of letters, and sillion is the soil that’s turned over by the plough.  Although it seems to be a sonnet about kestrel flight, it’s really an Easter passion poem.

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