Friday, June 09, 2006

The Windhover

My Calvinist English teacher at Ardrosssan Academy made us read Gerard Manely Hopkins. Along with Grahame Greene he made me a Catholic. Catholicism is the belief that there is not a lone "self" and God, but a God-filled cosmos working to save you. To me this is his best poem. Until you remember it, word by word, and start reciting it whenever it applies, you cannot "get" it. I live, for now, in Jacksonville Florida. Ospreys here are so common that the natives do not see them. I almost have to stop my car.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.

12. 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, 5
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 10
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.

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