The Windhover Gerard Manley Hopkins


Windhover Gerard Manley Hopkins
Windhover Gerard by Manley Hopkins

Windhover Gerard Manley Hopkins .‘The Windhover’ is a sonnet by Gerard Manley Hopkins. The sonnet was written in 1877 but got published in 1918. It has been dedicated by Hopkins directly ‘To Christ our Lord’. Hopkins considered it to be the best of his creations.


Windhover Gerard Manley Hopkins. The title of the sonnet is based on a bird known by the same name. The sonnet highlights the ability of the bird to hover midair while looking out for its prey. The great control it shows in doing so has been compared to the capability of a man to control a horse or to do ice skating. The poet talks about his experience of having seen a Windhover and the feelings he got for the bird in response. The poet shows his affection for the bird by using metaphors like ‘morning’s minion’ and ‘kingdom of daylight’s dauphin’ for it. According to the poet, the bird controls his movement in the air as efficiently as a rider controls the movement of a horse. The control it shows is ecstatic. The bird, then, shows the precision of an ice skater while it moves across the wind.

Windhover Gerard Manley Hopkins
Gerard Manley Hopkins

The poet, then, describes how the bird shows a combination of ‘beauty’, ‘valour’ and ‘act’. The unification of all these elements emits a glorious fire that adds to the beauty of the bird. The poet has also compared the bird’s glory to Christ’s. Thus, the bird has also been analyzed as a metaphor for Christ. However, he has mentioned that the bird’s beauty is merely a ‘spark’ when compared to the intensity of Christ’s majesty. The sestet also points towards the belief that moral nature of human beings is capable of giving a glow to their life. Religious conduct helps human life to sparkle in the same way as continuous use makes a metal plough shinier. The superiority of Christ over everything else has yet again been mentioned at the end of the sonnet. The ‘gold vermilion’ or the blood Christ shed during crucifixion is superior to the embers that represent the brightness of life of a person following religious ways.

Structure of Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The sonnet is known for its difficult language. The confusion regarding the grammatical structures and sentence order used in the poem contribute in making it difficult to understand. However, the smooth merging of various grammatical units goes well with the theme of the poem, i.e. the capability of the bird to merge its movements with that of wind.

Some metaphors have been used twice but in a varying sense. The metaphor of a horse rider used in the earlier part of the poem shows a comparison between the perfection of the bird and an efficient horse rider. However, the term ‘chevalier’ points towards Christ riding a horse as a knight. This metaphor shows a contrast between the bird and Christ to point out the greatness of the latter.

The sestet is quite difficult to understand owing to all these factors and makes the poem complex. However, the entire structure of the poem suits the intention of the poet regarding the subject matter of the poem.

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