Poems You Should Know: ‘The Windhover’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins

I profiled Hopkins (1844-1889), who is one of my favourite poets, ages ago. Although written during the Victorian era, his poems are Romantic in their emphasis on nature and spirituality, and were published (posthumously) during the Modern period. ‘The Windhover’ describes the flight of a falcon as it hovers and then drops, but also captures the spiritual ecstasy inspired by associating this sight with the sigh of Christ returning in majesty. However, the language – Hopkins’ ‘sprung verse’ – and the imagery is so evocative and captivating that the poem seems to transcend any religious framework to touch the hearts of people from many different backgrounds and beliefs.

To Christ our Lord
I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom
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: shèer plòd makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold vermilion.

On My Reading List: August 2016

My Reading List this month is short and sweet, mostly because I’ve spent far too long slogging my way through some weighty tomes and needed some shorter, sweeter works to stop me from going bonkers.

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On that note, I’ve dragged out one of my favourite poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins. I’ve written about him before, and if you’re not familiar with his work it’s well worth checking out. Be warned: his ‘sprung verse’ is a shock to the system if you’re used to reading in your head. Hopkins needs to be read aloud, the words tumbling joyously off the page and through the air before they reach your brain. Continue reading “On My Reading List: August 2016”

Poet Profile: Gerard Manley Hopkins

I did say yes
O at lightning and lashed rod;
Thou heardst me truer than tongue confess
Thy terror, O Christ, O God;
Thou knowst the walls, altar and hour and night:
The swoon of a heart that the sweep and the hurl of thee trod
Hard down with a horror of height:
And the midriff astrain with leaning of,
laced with fire of stress…

With a mercy that outrides
The all of water, an ark
For the listener; for the lingerer with a love glides
Lower than death and the dark;
A vein for the visiting of the past-prayer, pent in prison,
The-last-breath penitent spirits – the uttermost mark
Our passion-plunged giant risen,
The Christ of the Father compassionate,
Fetched in the storm of his strides…

(Excerpt from Hopkins, ‘The Wreck of the Deutschland’)

Continue reading “Poet Profile: Gerard Manley Hopkins”