• the thought fox

The Windhover - gerard manley hopkins

*This is the third poem in the ’sonnet week’, I’m sharing another poem by Hopkins. For those of you who have been following Poetly, I’d shared his “Pied Beauty” in an earlier post. But this is my my favourite Hopkins poem. I think I must have spent a few days taking in the fist line itself. It is a poem about a bird, a kestrel. Hopkins “caught” this vision of the windhover - ‘daylight’s dauphin’ - and wrote a sonnet about it.

I do not know if I’ve “understood” this poem. I read it first when I was in school. But then I believe one cannot really approach poetry (or anything for that matter) with knowledge as an end objective. Knowledge just accrues, like sweat. I want to feel. to experience, with the poet. to feel the sound of words, to let metaphors find homes in me, the way dislocated joints heal and set into muscle. sometimes it is like listening to another language without really caring about what is being said. It is then we start paying attention to accent, dialect, body language. In fact, much of the joy of the dish lies in the hands of the cook. the ingredients are just the beginning.

This poem is an example of Hopkin’s love for experimentation with form. Here, he breaks every established rule of the Petrarchan or Italian sonnet form (rhyme scheme, syllabic structure etc.) but retains the broad outline of the octave (1st 8 lines) and the sestet (the last 6 lines). He breaks sentence structure and rules of grammar and syntax with an élan that is trumped only by his subject, the bird. The Windhover is magnificent and unpredictable. His 'heart in hiding stirred for a bird'. By the sestet we see the effect the bird has on hopkins - adjectives verbs nouns and metaphors "buckle" and blend into an outburst of feeling. Of course, Hopkins, being who he is ends by equating the flight of the bird to divine phenomena. without really taking away from its essence.

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