“The Windhover: to Christ our Lord” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

“The Windhover: to Christ our Lord” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

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

Mitchell Kalpakgian comments about this poem:

At this moment it is worth remembering one of the finest English efforts at honoring the glory, majesty, sovereignty, authority, liberality, and magnanimity of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords — “The Windhover: to Christ our Lord” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. In Hopkins’ poem the image of the mighty Windhover reigning in his domain of the sky, its flight in the glory of the luminous dawn (“this morning morning’s minion of daylight’s dauphin”), and the sheer awe-inspiring sublimity of its greatness (‘the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!”) amid the forceful winds evoke the power and the glory of kingship its all its splendor, royalty, and divinity.  Christ the King moves and acts in His dominion — all of Nature and Creation — with the same all-powerful, all-encompassing regality that the windhover’s flight encircles in the beautiful grace of its movements.

The poem, subtitled “To Christ our Lord,” compares Christ’s actions and movements in the world to the mastery, strength, beauty, and finesse of the falcon and the skater whose unerring motions and sure sense of direction beautify creation and glorify God.  Christ is a king, his power is astonishing, his miracles manifest his greatness, and he radiates light and expresses the glory and grandeur of God always and everywhere.  Christ can walk on water, multiply the loaves and the fish, raise Lazarus from the dead, cure the blind, change water into wine, and transform bread and wine into the spiritual food of the body and blood of the Lord.  Like the falcon who rises and falls, ascending with the short quick movements captured in the opening line and then collapsing its wings in its descent that the word “Buckle!” expresses, Christ too moves from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven, from life to death, from death to life, from human existence to a heavenly ascension, from the tomb to the upper room to the road to Emmaus — movements that are as daring, creative, and spectacular as the displays of the windhover’s dramatic movements and the skater’s dazzling turns.

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