Jerry Dyer: A favorite poem

The Windhover
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

I was a young college student, and stumbled into a class being taught by Wayne Booth (my future wife invited me to sit in, and I’m glad for many reasons that I did!) “The Windhover” seems impenetrable, so obscure.  And that’s why it was so important to me.  Poems are sometimes mysteries, they are marks on paper that have to be struggled with, bartered with, worked with–to give their deepest meanings.  But the struggle is so beautiful, just because of the power and beauty of the language.  Just one hint of the complexities buried here: the Trinity is “hidden” in the first two lines, “spirit (servant)-king and son.”

Jerry Dyer, 54
Teacher for East Side Union High School District
San Jose

The Windhover

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-vermillion.

Gerard Manley Hopkins


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