"The Windhover" is a sonnet by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889). It was written on May 30, 1877, but not published until 1918, when it was included as part of the collection Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Hopkins dedicated the poem "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.
"Windhover" is another name for the common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). The name refers to the bird's ability to hover in midair while hunting prey. In the poem, the narrator admires the bird as it hovers in the air, suggesting that it controls the wind as a man may control a horse. The bird then suddenly swoops downwards and "rebuffed the big wind". The bird can be viewed as a metaphor for Christ or of divine epiphany.
Hopkins called "The Windhover" "the best thing [he] ever wrote". It commonly appears in anthologies and has lent itself to many interpretations.
In popular culture
The poem appears in the TV series Due South. It is shared by the characters Constable Benton Fraser and fugitive Victoria Metcalf while they sustain one another on a mountainside during a bitter storm, forming a deep and passionate bond in the process. The episode "Victoria's Secret" concludes with Fraser lying shot on a railway platform reciting The Windhover.
The poem also appears in The Waltons (season 2, episode 13: "The Air Mail Man"). John-Boy reads part of The Windhover to his Mother, Olivia, as a birthday present. Olivia said she did not understand it but was moved by the phrase "my heart in hiding stirred".
- The Mastery of the Thing
- Poems and Prose of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
- "Victoria's Secret". Due South. Season 1. Episode 20–21.
[Fraser:] I don't remember losing consciousness but I do remember being aware that I was dying. And then I heard her voice. She was reciting a poem over and over. I couldn't make out the words but I couldn't stop listening — she had the most beautiful voice. It was as though I had known her forever across a thousand life times... [Victoria:] Ben. Come with me. Come with me. You'll regret it if you don't. Fraser come with me. [Vecchio:] She's got a gun! [Vecchio shoots and hits Fraser, he falls from the train. Fraser, faintly:] 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...
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