Poem of the Week · Reflections

The Windhover

 

Hopkins

Whenever I need to be reminded to be wide eyed and giddy about the marvelous creation all around me, I read Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889). An Oxford-educated British Victorian turned Jesuit priest, his poetic works were published posthumously  influencing the greatest poets of the 20th century (Brittanica). His writings are incredibly innovative, originating “sprung rhythm” which eclipsed traditional uses of meter. He packs together every poetic device in the book, including his own idea of an “under-thought” where each image suggests multiple meanings beneath its direct meaning or “over-thought”. Though his poems encompass the full human range of  glee to despair (labeled his “terrible sonnets”), the majority of his poems  celebrate the glory of nature as the mirror of Christ. The one below merely describes the flight of a falcon, if merely could ever be the case.

The Windhover (1877, published 1918)

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dabble-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 valor 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 silicon
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

For a superb biography see: Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life by Paul Mariani

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