The windhover is a falcon or kestrel. It can hover in the wind by vibrating its wings, glide sideways, and dart for prey.
The poem is a sonnetThis poem has a Walt Whitman quallity, with Hopkins praising the bird through lists.
The octet (1st 8 lines) focus on the bird in flight The sestet (last 6 lines) moralizes.
The windhover is dappled & moving. As in Pied Beauty, it is changeable but to Hopkins reflects the unchanging universe & reminds him somehow of "Christ our Lord"
Something shines through common things & common life:
- The plow shines as it runs through the earth.
- The gray ember falls over, splits open, and reveals the fire within
Dappled & pied both have a similar meaning - having two or more
Brinded - brownish orange with streaks of gray. Could be the look of the sky at sunset.
Dappled things were generally seen as being inferior to things with
The idea is similar to the one expressed by the Wife of Bath that she might barley bread and not pure white bread, but that Jesus fed the multitude with the barley bread. Dappled things have their place also & reflect the underlying eternity, simplicity, & purity.
He describes the various dappled things he finds around him & their beauty.
10 God "fathers-forth" (creates) these things too, giving them a place
in his world.
Symbolically that gives US a place in creation also, despite the sins that stain us and keep us from being pure white.
Carrion - "road kill." Vulture food.
The satisfaction of giving in to despair as a kind of "comfort" is like a vulture's satisfaction in feasting on dead flesh.
3 Won't give up
4 He can do SOMETHING. Lists some things.
"Not choose not to be" He can choose NOT to commit suicide.
5-6 "rude on me / Thy wring-world right foot rock?" = Why are you shoving me with the foot that wrings the world?
5-8 God's roughness with him is similar to the sentiment in John
Donne's "Batter My Heart."
God's action toward him SEEMS violent & makes him want to flee, but it is still grace behind the roughness.
10 Kissed the rod = taking holy orders. Hopkins had undergone a difficult religious experience, converting from Anglican to Roman Catholic and eventually becoming a Jesuit. Protestant England still had very negative attitudes toward Catholicism, especially toward the Jesuits, making his decision all the more difficult.
Having "kissed the rod," Hopkins was distressed to find himself struggling with depression when he should be happy.
14 "(my God!) my God" - is of course a quote of Jesus' cry of despair
on the cross. This ties his problems to Christ's and is a sign of
the grace that is at work somewhere in the background.