he following interlinear translation of Hopkins's "Windhover" into simpler, if vastly less interesting or effective, language should help you follow his argument, for he creates a carefully ordered poem. In some cases the ambiguous phrases have been simplified, and you might wish to follow links to explore other possible readings. Why was the speaker's heart "hiding" and from whom? At what point does the reader realize that the falcon's gliding and plunge to the earth tells the speaker something important about the beauty of Christ? How does such a meditation on a natural phenomenon resemble — differ — from those of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley?
Gerard Manley Hopkins
To Christ our Lord
(Note that this dedication to Christ address Him directly and makes him part of the poem)
I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
this morning I caught [sight of] the minion or servant of the morning, [who is] the dauphin, or crown-prince,
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
of the Kingdom of Daylight — — a falcon spotted or dappled by the dawn as he was riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
the steady air over the rolling hills or land and as he was striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
high up in the sky. Howin his ectasy he halted with his wings as if he were pulling back on a horse's reins,
In his ecstacy! then off, off forth on swing.
Then, he would launch himself again [as a child] on a swing.
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on bow-bend: the hurl and the gliding
[In the same way that] a skater's heel smoothly sweeps around a curve [when skating figures], the
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
bird's hurling itself against the wind and then gliding with it, rebuffed and conquered that powerful natural
Stirred for a bird, — the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
force. My heart, which had been in hiding (from WHAT?), stirred itself — became excited for the bird's achievement and power, for its mastery of natural forces.
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Then, at this point, all the bird's brute, animal beauty, courage, and — oh! — his proud air and feathers
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
buckle or crumple! And the fire (the bright red of the bird's chest feathers as well as higher beauty)
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
is a billion times lovely and more dangeorus [that the earlier mastery of natural forces that the hawk had show in his gliding, oh my chevalier (knight).
No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion
The fact that [the beauty of falling, danger, and descent is greater than the beauty of power] should not surprise us, because nature abounds with other instances of this higher principle: (1) simple plodding work of the ploughman makes the plough shine from its polishing against the cut earth and also makes the sillion, cut
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear
earth, shine, and [similarly] (2) bleak-looking embers [in a stove or fireplace], ah my dear[Christ],
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.
when they fall and hurt themselves also break open and the gashes reveal the beauty of red and gold.
Last modified 1988