Mrs. Sabtchev – Honors 2 English
Analysis of The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins
In the poem “The Windhover” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, an early morning riser narrates his experience of a Falcon that leaves him in awe, recognizing the work and grandeur of God through the bird’s mastery of its own nature. The speaker makes a mention of his inner-kept passion that has been drawn out of him by the sight of this magnificent creature. Upon reaching a kind of epiphany, he expresses a humble appreciation for the creatures of God, and infers reflection on his own life and the potential for growth.
When a man’s attention is caught by a Falcon one morning, he finds himself contemplating the skill and control of the bird, and its significance in relation to his own life. He sees the bird hovering steadily over a current of wind, buffering the free air with the resistance of the wind by the motion of its masterful wings. The speaker is amazed at its ability to balance the freedom and constraint of the open air, quickly acknowledging God’s role in the bird’s nature. He realizes the bird is carrying out its God given potential, giving it its “beauty and valour” in reaching “ecstasy”; its peak of flight. Hopkins demonstrates the importance of opening one’s eyes to the beauty of things in everyday life, no matter how common they may seem. In the last stanza, his examples of everyday occurrences holding significance demonstrate that everything created has a purpose, and therefore should be appreciated as a grace of God. The speaker’s amazement at the bird’s ability to act to its fullest nature and overcome the obstacle of wind also infers an inner reflection that a man’s full potential is God given, and therefore must be achieved through good will and faith. This recollection expresses an aspect of his own life that is in need of improvement.
Hopkins emphasizes the man’s high praise of the bird in lines 7-8, “...My heart in hiding/ Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!”. Here the speaker compares his prior inner kept passion, to the emotional revelation he comes to at the sight of a commonplace animal. He suggests that he had not previously had an appreciation for everyday experiences, and thought them to be trivial. After this occurrence, however, he sees that they are anything but trivial; they are blessings. Simply encountering the Falcon’s instinctive nature and act was inspiring to the viewer. He seems to hold a new understanding of the role of his surroundings and now perceives them to be deliberate in their manner. Everything in our experience, he concludes, is significant, and God’s grace of purpose and skill is not limited to only humans. Dedicating the poem to “Christ our Lord”, Hopkins had a deep spiritual connection to the message of the poem, and shared the narrator’s enthusiasm towards the creations of God, particularly in nature.
The major literary devices demonstrated within the poem include symbolism, imagery, and alliteration. The Falcon is a symbol for Christ the son of God, an appropriate example for the significance of God’s creations. The bird fighting the resisting wind represents Christ’s struggle on earth with all of his disapproving protestors, as well as his sacrificial crucifixion. This sacrifice continues to give us the opportunity to experience the everyday joy and beauty of life, as shown in the speaker’s experience with the Falcon. This enlightening observation, described by the narrator as “Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, pride, plume, here Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then” in the second stanza, compares the Falcon to a “chevalier”. Hopkins illustrates the unfathomable courage Christ had when entering our sufferings here on earth; like the bird swooping down from flight, courageously giving his own life to a greater life for the masses. A chevalier also alludes to heroic qualities he perceives in the bird, in its comparison to