The Windhover

The Windhover is a sonnet written by the English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. The sonnet is written on 30th May 1877, but not published until being a part of the collection Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins in 1918. This poem is dedicated to Christ.

Windhover is the name of the common kestrel. The name “Windhover” suggests a bird who hovers in the wind in search of its prey.

The bird of the sonnet is praised By the narrator, as it hovers in the wind and keeps its control over the wind. This incident symbolizes a man who controls a horse. The bird is a metaphor for Christ or the divine epiphany.
Hopkins asserts “The Windhover” is the best ever work of him. It comes up in anthologies and can be interpreted in multiple ways.

The Windhover
The Windhover

The Windhover Summary

The opening scene of the sonnet has as both a further description of the bird’s motion and a direction to the poet’s psyche. Windhover is the name of a bird with the rare Capability to hover in the air, in search of its prey.
The poet elaborates that he has seen the bird hovering.

The bird captivates the poet as the darling of the morning, the crown of the prince of the kingdom of daylight, drawn by the spotted colours of dawn.
The narrator thinks that the windhover sits high, and its wings are trembling and fear.

Windhover has a controlled motion and it hovers energetically in a rhythmic way. Later, the bird is heading again. Now the bird has a motion like skating on the ice.

It suggests the idea of controlling the air as it hovers further.
In this case, integration occurs. At the time of this unification, although not so great the glorious fire symbolises of the glory of Christ’s crucifixion.

The Windhover as a religious poem

Hopkins has combined all his romantic fascinating ideas with nature and his religious views of Christ to pay his gratitude and praise God and his omnipotence.
The Windhover written by Gerard Manley Hopkins is some sort of a romantic sonnet and certainly a religious poem dedicating the Christ.

This sonnet begins with a description of nature and ends with admiring God, his grace and glory. The poem has been written using his “sprung rhythm”, which he developed, and alliteration, rhymes, metaphors of the epiphany, and complex threads of connotation.

The Windhover Symbols

• Bird

The bird plays an important role throughout Hopkins’s poetry. It symbolizes for God and Christ.

This sonnet “The Windhover,” is a poem dedicated to Christ.
The narrator describes seeing a falcon flying in the sky and searching vestiges of Christ in its movement.

The beauty of the bird captures the narrator. It symbolizes the beauty of Christ it is divine.
Christ appears in the inscape demonstration.

According to Christianity, birds remind that there is life away from the earth, in paradise. The Holy Ghost is considered to be a dove.

• Fire

Gerard Manley Hopkins in his sonnet The Windhover uses vivid imageries of fire to symbolize his own passionate religious beliefs, and also to symbolize Christ.

He combines fire and Christ as the narrator visualizes a glorious flame with which he compares Christ and his crucifixion and states that the falcon has Christ in itself.

Christ is present everywhere throughout nature.

• Trees

In this sonnet, the Trees symbolizes the earthly effects and to show the harmful treatments of humans towards nature.

Humans are cruel to the trees by cutting them down and in this way, they are harming the beautiful nature, created by God.
Chopping down a tree is served as a metaphor for the larger destruction of the nature being committed by civilization and industrialization. With the help of the Trees, an area can become more beautiful.


• Inscape and Mistress

Gerard Manley Hopkins has invented the concept of inscape and instress to express his ideas as a poet.

The concept is about individuality and uniqueness of God.
Inscape and in stress elaborate the matter of God and God’s creation and importance n the world.

In “The Windhover” Hopkins dedicates the opening octet to admire the kestrel’s inscape for its skills, energy, enthusiasm and the ecstasy in movement.
Inscape mentions the views of the readers. Mistress is the system by which the readers judges the inscape.

Stress is based on the realization and acceptance that God is the ultimate omnipresent.
According to Gerard Manley Hopkins, God appears everywhere in the world, God is present in everything.

Hence everything God has created is sacred and has spiritual aspects.

• Sprung rhythm

The poem The Windhover is written using sprung rhythm.

Sprung rhythm is an irregular system of poem Invented by the English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins in the 19th century.

A foot may be composed of from one to four syllables in this system.
It lies on the number of stressed syllables in a line and allows an indeterminate number of unstressed syllables.

• Ambivalence

Ambivalence is an important theme since “The Windhover” sonnet is about both a bird and Jesus Christ.

The bird symbolizes the Christ, the personification of duality.
This is a semi-romantic poem, but ambivalent balances out the duality. The kestrel’s control of the wind suggests the title of the poem.

Hopkins sees, a European kestrel is hovering in the air and it looks like as if it’s flying only around a centre.

Hence, the bird is although hovering free but yet anchored to one spot.
According to Christianity, Christ is both man and God.

Christ has been moved in heaven, just as the kestrel flies towards heaven. He is also moved to hell, just as the kestrel goes down to hunt its prey.

• The psyche of the narrator

The bird is flying around freely yet it is anchored. The narrator’s heart and his mind-set are so difficult to understand.

Since the narrator doesn’t explain his heart, it is impossible to jump into any particular statement or conclusion.

Hopkins has written a sonnet about romanticism and spirituality. It is a semi-romantic poem and purely devotional.

Hopkins has personified God as the kestrel bird. Hopkins informs through his poem that the bird and the narrator’s heart are not connected anyhow.

In a sonnet, there’s no place for random or casual references. Hopkins asserts The Windhover as “the best thing [he] ever wrote.”

He has mentioned the narrator’s heart for a reason to give a subtle impression.


• When was the Windhover written?
Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote The Windhover in May 1877.

• What is meant by sprung rhythm?
The poem The Windhover is written using sprung rhythm. Sprung rhythm is an irregular system of poem Invented by the English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins in the 19th century. A foot may be composed of from one to four syllables in this system.

It lies on the number of stressed syllables in a line and allows an indeterminate number of unstressed syllables.

• What does the Windhover represent to the poet?

The Windhover writhen by Gerard Manley Hopkins is a religious poem dedicating Christ. The sonnet begins with detailing the nature and ends with the description of God and Christ and his beauty, omnipotence and grace.

• Which bird is called the Windhover?
“Windhover” is the name of the common kestrel.
In the poem, the narrator praises the bird as it flies in the air, which symbolizes that it may control the air just as a man controls a horse.

• What does Sillion mean?
Sillion means the thick, shiny and spacious soil over tuned by a smash.