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message 1: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
The Windhover
BY Gerard Manly Hopkins

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.

message 2: by Frances (new)

Frances Richardson | 640 comments Manny, you probably know that Hopkins' considered this poem "the best thing I ever wrote." How grand that image:

My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, -- the achieve of , the mastery of the thing!

message 3: by Leslie (last edited Jul 04, 2018 04:48AM) (new)

Leslie | 359 comments I loved this. I went online and found pictures of them including the hovering for hunting. It really was a beautiful tribute to God's perfection. Hopkins is so humble.

Thank you for selecting this book of poetry. I've enjoyed all of the poems.

message 4: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
No one has really commented on this. I've been debating what I should say. Four years ago I wrote an essay that I posted on my blog. I covered every aspect of the poem and a college professor who had taught the poem for many years said it was the definitive essay. I posted the poem in two parts because the essay was rather lengthy. The essay might be a little too English lit technical, but I think it would help make sense for those who are baffled by this great poem. I'm going to provide you the links but I'll also copy and paste parts of it here.

Part 1:

Part 2:

message 5: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
First let’s get some of the basics out of the way. It’s an Italian sonnet where amazingly all eight endings of the octave have one rhyme, “-ing.” [The octave is the first eight lines; the sestet is the remaining six lines.] The octave here contains one complex thought, which I’ll shortly decompose, and the sestet breaks down into two thought units, one in the first three lines, the other in the last three lines.
If it is a sonnet, it’s a rather experimental sonnet. Sonnets typically contain ten syllables, making that pentameter, and the rhythm is usually iambic, which means it follows a rhythm of unstressed/stressed, five times per line. The very first line does follow an iambic pentameter meter, the bold being a stressed syllable. Bold type below signifies a stressed syllable, while normal type is unstressed.

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-

But what is one to make of the second line:

dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

Sixteen syllables! And with no regularity. I won’t do this for the whole poem, but here are the next three lines:

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,

The third line also has sixteen syllables, the fourth has fourteen syllables, and the fifth has eleven syllables. There just isn't a pattern.

A couple of points can be made here about the meter. Hopkins is a dissenter to the belief that natural rhythm of the English language is iambic. He is actually prophetic here. Other than Walt Whitman, and I don’t know if Hopkins was aware of Whitman’s poetry, no other poet before him broke from the iambic predominance in English poetry, with the possible exception of Robert Browning. Browning had a penchant for quirky rhythms, Whitman considered his meter natural, and Hopkins called his meter “sprung rhythm.” Between the three they pioneered what became known in the 20th century as “free verse.”

Hopkins’ stretching of the lines beyond the traditional pentameter is both an aesthetic statement of breaking with tradition and reflects the soaring flight of the falcon within the lines. Adding or subtracting an extra foot (a single syllable) is not unusual, but adding six most definitely is. Notice also the enjambment (the running of lines into the next) in the octave, and how that also reflects the soaring freedom of the bird. It makes the poem run. I don’t ever recall seeing a hyphenation (“king-dom”) in any poetry before modernism get fragmented so that the first syllable ends a line and the next enjambs into the next. It probably has occurred, and I suspect someone will point it out to me, but it’s not in my memory banks. Did Hopkins do it just to be different or for the rhyme? No! It has thematic significance, which I’ll point out in part two of this analysis.

So, allow me to break down what is literally going on. From the first chunk of meaning from the octave we have this, which I’ll reformulate in linear form:

“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!”

The poet saw a bird that morning, a falcon, who the poet calls a “dauphin” (a French aristocrat) and in whose flight appears to be either (a) being pulled in by the morning dawn light or (b) the falcon ahead of the dawn seemingly pulling the encroaching light across the sky. Both of those meanings I think can fit “dawn-drawn Falcon.” I’ve always seen it as (b) but I bet most people read it as (a). Now the falcon is actually a windhover, which is a smaller species of falcon that can stop and hold itself still against the wind so that it appears to hover in the sky. So to put this all together, the bird swooshes across the morning sky until he comes before the poet and just hangs still in an ecstasy.

message 6: by Kerstin (last edited Jul 10, 2018 09:08PM) (new)

Kerstin | 1552 comments Mod
I must admit I struggle with poems like this. I read it multiple times and still can't make the language flow to draw out the beauty. I find it bumpy - if that makes any sense. If this were music I would call parts of it dissonant. In the first line separating the word 'king-dom' makes the tongue stumble over a rock.

I've never had much enthusiasm in dissecting a poem for its technical composition, and I know I do miss some of the finer points in this regard. My approach is more intuitive. I look at poetry as something similar to music where the highest, most sophisticated expressions make a harmonious, beautiful whole.
Am I making sense?

message 7: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
Kerstin, it is a very difficult poem (especially for someone who's first language is not English) but if you grasp it, the beauty of it is wonderful.

message 8: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
Now for the next chunk of meaning:

“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.”

After a moment of hovering, the falcon takes off, swooping like an ice skate heel pulling a precise turn. In flight, the bird “rebuffs” the wind, that is, checks it or pushes back against it. This is the first image of the bird in opposition to the wind.

“My heart in hiding/Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing.”

Here the narrator steps forth and tells how at a moment of weakness or fragility—how does one interpret “my heart in hiding”?—was looking for some inspiration, some incredible finesse, some incredible skill, some “mastery.” That completes the octave, and to put the complex thought together what we have is a poet looking for some inspiration when early one morning he catches sight of a falcon coming across the dawn light.

The sestet has a b-c-b, c-b-c rhyme scheme, which so beautifully interlocks. And Hopkins chooses some of the hardest words to rhyme: “chevalier” and “vermillion.” The first three lines of the sestet brings a climax to the bird/wind opposition, and the last three lines explains the meaning of event that enfolded before his eyes.

“Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here/Buckle!”

Here is the climax: the falcon (“brute beauty”) in full skillful sweep collides with the air into a crash. The metaphor (implied through “chevalier” and “dauphin”) is of jousting knights coming to a crash. The collision is described as a “Buckle,” and, if anything, how he uses this word shows Hopkins to be a great poet. What a word to choose here. To some degree the whole poem rests on this word “Buckle.” Notice how he enjambs the word to the next line and ends the sentence one word into the line. That’s a bit unusual, but it gives the word an immense power. But what does he mean? When jousting knights collide, their spears buckle. It means a collapsing and breaking open. But it means more. Hopkins is punning on the word. Buckle, like a belt buckle, brings things together, binds them. But in what way does a bird flying into the wind buckle? Yes, it’s metaphorical. But it’s more than that. It’s metaphysical. What buckles and breaks open and binds together is transcendence.

“AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion/Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!”

What breaks open is literally the morning sun bursting with light, lovely and dangerous. The bird, the wind, the sun, God’s creatures within God’s elements are integrated and charged with spirit.

But Hopkins is not finished there. He then goes on to explain what the drama that unfolded before him means with two incredible and contrasting metaphors.

“No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion/Shine”

From the lofty action-filled imagery of the falcon and the wind, all of a sudden Hopkins is talking about a plough? The burst of light, he says, should not be a wonder. Why? Because a plough plodding through dirt shines. From the transcendent imagery of falcon and air and light, Hopkins switches to that of plough and earth and mundane. Here too that gleam of transcendence is encapsulated in the “shine” that bursts forth from the activity. Even the word sillion—a word coined by Hopkins, meaning the turned over soil that is not as dusky as that on top—suggests the innate glimmer of the divine that shines in all things, not just with a falcon, but with lowly dirt.

“and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,/Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.”

Here he repeats how the divine is in everything with another image, embers in a fireplace. As they burn, they fall and break open, and show the “gold vermillion” of its interior beauty.

message 9: by Frances (new)

Frances Richardson | 640 comments Outstanding, Manny. You made Hopkins' gorgeous but often abstruse poetry accessible. It was such a pleasure reading this. I wish your work could be seen by other groups, too.

message 10: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
Frances wrote: "Outstanding, Manny. You made Hopkins' gorgeous but often abstruse poetry accessible. It was such a pleasure reading this. I wish your work could be seen by other groups, too."

Thank you so much Frances. That is quite a compliment. I am honored. Since my chosen profession is not in literature, I will have to linger in humble obscurity. For those that enjoy reading my analysis of literary works, come and visit my blog and see if I have commented on a particular work. There's a little search box on the top left corner.

I have one more addition to the Hopkins analysis. See next comment.

message 11: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
Let’s first look at this from a language perspective. Hopkins is known for replicating Anglo-Saxon rhythm and diction. Certainly the frequent alliteration recalls early and middle English poetry. And we get as expected from a Hopkins poem many Germanic rooted words: “dapple,” “dawn,” “drawn,” “morning,” “sheer,” “plod,” “plough,” “bleak,” “wimple,” “bow,” “kingdom,” and so on. What I find remarkable, however, is how many Latinate, and more specifically, French rooted words Hopkins uses. Notice how many: “minion,” “falcon,” “rein,” “brute,” “billion,” “dauphin,” “sillion,” “vermillion,” “air,” “dangerous,” “lovelier,” and, most conclusively, “chevalier.” No doubt there is a conscious effort to create a dualistic contrast with diction. It’s as if the two language roots are crashing together into that very same buckle that the wind and the falcon crash at the heart of the poem. And what is interesting is how at the center of this is the word “buckle.” Buckle to me sounds very Germanic/Anglo-Saxon, but when I looked up its etymology, I was surprised to find it comes from French. The collapsing connotation of buckle comes from the middle French word, boucler, and coupling definition of buckle comes from the old French, bocle. Not only is the drama of the falcon and wind meet at the word “buckle,” but so does the meeting of the two language groups. So what is suggested here is an aesthetic of dualism.

Next let’s look at the sequence of metaphors:
1. The falcon as a servant (minion).
2. Falcon as a French aristocrat, a dauphin.
3. The daylight as a kingdom or territory.
4. Flying as if climbing unto a saddle, “rung upon the rein.”
5. Flying as skating on ice.
6. The collision of bird and wind as a joust and collapsing (buckling) of lances.
7. The meeting of bird and wind as a joining (buckled).
8. The collision of bird and wind causes dangerous fire.
9. The falcon as a knight (chevalier).
10. Hot broken embers form a gold shine.

I think those are the major metaphors. The heart in hiding and stirring is more of a circumlocution than a fully developed metaphor. So what does this all suggest? Well, let’s set aside the metaphors that are merely there for descriptive purposes, numbers four, five and ten. Numbers two and nine coordinate representing the falcon as an aristocratic, French knight. Why a French knight? I don’t see any particular reason why the knight needs to be French, but it allows Hopkins to bring in the French-rooted diction to collide with the Germanic/Anglo-Saxon diction. Number three is a rather interesting metaphor, advancing light from the morning dawn as a territorial expansion, with the falcon then as sovereign. But number one, in contrast to compared to a king, identifies the falcon as a servant (minion). Number eight describes a metaphysical discharge from the buckling—in both senses of the word—bird and wind. Numbers six and seven are the play on the word “buckle” as I outlined in the Part 1 post.

What does that all lead to? It leads to a complex set of symbols, where the falcon stands for something beyond the mere surface of its being. That shouldn’t surprise us. Birds as symbols are a topos, a poetic meme that one frequently encounters. Consider Keats’ nightingale, Poe’s raven, Stevens’ blackbird, Frosts’ oven bird, Shelley’s skylark, and so on. Hopkins’ falcon is symbolic for Christ as servant and king, as knight and spirit, as prince of both the air and the dirt, of winged majesty and of humble plow. Now we see why there is the aesthetic of duality. It projects toward the double nature of Christ, man and God, flesh and spirit, king and servant, synthesized in His being. And that brings us back to buckle, where two oppositions clash, discharge, and then couple. Falcon and wind become one. Nature, from air to dirt, becomes unified into wholeness, as the body of Christ brings all into unity.

Which brings me to a little controversy I mentioned in Part 1. If you notice, there is a dedication underneath the title, “To Christ Our Lord.” The dedication was not in the original writing of the poem, which occurred in 1877. Hopkins added that seven years later in 1884, presumably because he felt this was his best work and he ought to offer it to our Lord. According to some who read the poem as strictly a nature poem the suggestion of the falcon representing Christ only was inserted by the addition of the dedication. Otherwise it’s a poem about a falcon and the hidden divine that is within the natural world, revealed by the energy of the falcon opposing the wind, the shiny, overturned soil, and the gold inside the cracked embers.

Now the idea does have some merit. It’s not one of those loony deconstructionist approaches. It’s actually a New Criticism approach, which isn’t all that new. It goes back to the 1940s. Under New Criticism one rejects using the author’s background and the critic’s intuitive reductions and deals strictly with the poem’s text and structure. Since Christ isn’t formally mentioned in the poem, one might be reading into the poem meaning that wasn’t there. So was the dedication, the New Criticism critics might ask, added as an afterthought or to lead the reader to the meaning?

Oh I think it’s clear that the falcon symbolizes Christ. Both servant and King can only suggest Christ. Those that apply that restrictive a reading could never acknowledge any symbolism in any poetry. I think the controversy is based on over intellectualizing.

message 12: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1552 comments Mod
Wow Manny! This is amazing! There are depths I could only grasp at the surface by myself. I intuitively knew there was more, but I couldn't quite get there.

message 13: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
Kerstin wrote: "Wow Manny! This is amazing! There are depths I could only grasp at the surface by myself. I intuitively knew there was more, but I couldn't quite get there."

I know. It's a really hard poem, and I got to that level of understanding after years of reading it. It's probably among the top ten sonnets ever written. It might even be the best.

message 14: by Frances (new)

Frances Richardson | 640 comments Manny, after doing such important work, would you be interested in seeing the website of Ron Hansen, Gerard Manley Hopkins Professor in Arts and Humnities at Santa Clara University in California?

(You may think that this is a shameless attempt to promote interest in Ron Hansen's classic, Mariette in Ecstasy, for a group read. I confess, you would be right.) Adfitionally, though, I think you would find the story of Hansen's professional and spiritual arcs compelling.

Thank you again, for the superb presentation of The Windhover.

message 15: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
I would love to look at Ron Hansen's website. Do you have the link?

message 16: by Frances (new)

Frances Richardson | 640 comments I just typed in Ron Hansen Gerard Manley Hopkins Professor of Arts and Humanities at Santa Clara University, and a list of sites came up. On one site a book caught my eye: Exiles, by Hansen. One reviewer described it this way: "Exiles is really three stories: the life of Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, the wreck of the German ship Deutschland which carried five nuns escaping religious persecution . . . , and the poem Hopkins wrote about the event, "The Wreck of the Deutschland." I am going to order Exiles from Amazon.

Ron Hansen is one of the rare writers -- Flannery O'Connor was another -- who can write of Catholic themes and be accepted by mainstream publishers.

I hope this was helpful, Manny.

message 17: by Manny (last edited Jul 16, 2018 04:57AM) (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
Exiles is apparantly one of his most recent novels which combines the wreck of that ship and the writing of the Hopkins poem on the wreck. By the way, that Hopkins poem ("The Wreck of the Deutschland") is a long, theological poem which I found difficult to read. You can read a little something on the poem here:
And the poem itself here:

message 18: by Frances (new)

Frances Richardson | 640 comments You are so generous, Manny. Thank you. Years ago, in a class on poetry and mysticism, I read and studied "The Wreck of the Deutschland." When the class was over and I walked away, these are the memories that stayed with me: one) that Hopkins wrote it at the request of his rector, breaking seven years of self-imposed silence; two) the line, "Over again I feel thy finger and find thee. . . " , referring to the activity of the Holy Spirit; three) the line in which one nun cries out, "O Christ, Christ, come quickly . . ." , evoking the terror of Peter and the other disciples on the Sea of Galilee, and four) a personal favorite, the magnificent description "The Christ of the Father compassionate, fetched in the storm of his strides."

Later, I learned of an unfortunate irony, that when Hopkins submitted "The Wreck of the Deutschland" to the Jesuit journal, Month, for publication, it was rejected.

He's recognized now. Professor of English Literature Peter Milward, S.J., writing in his book Landscape and Inscape, said, "Few poets have more amply fulfilled Keats's requirement that every rift in a poem should be loaded with ore -- except that Hopkins has loaded his with gold." (page 11)

message 19: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1552 comments Mod
I will definitely have to read more of Hopkins!

message 20: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
Kerstin wrote: "I will definitely have to read more of Hopkins!"

Kerstin, look up a poem called “Pied Beauty.” It’s a straight forward poem but very pretty and reverential. It’s a variation on the Glor Be prayer. I was tempted to select it but went with the three I picked.

message 21: by Manny (last edited Jul 18, 2018 05:24AM) (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
Here is "Pied Beauty" for everyone's enjoyment:

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him.

Unfortunalty the lines indent in various ways which do not transfer in a copy and paste here. Perhaps the indents accentuate the meaning, so you can look at the poem as physically written here:

message 22: by Frances (new)

Frances Richardson | 640 comments Thanks so much, Manny.

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