The Windhover, written in 1877, draws powerfully from Hopkins' experience of nature, specifically of his observations of the dawn-time flight of a falcon. Hopkins the poet describes in unforgettable terms the gracefulness and exquisite perfection of movement embodied by the bird. Hopkins the Jesuit priest views that perfection as an expression of the greater perfection embodied by his Lord and Master, Jesus of Nazareth.
Hopkins himself described The Windhover as "the best thing I ever wrote," an extraordinary affirmation considering the depth and density of the rest of his canon. Scottish existential psychiatrist R.D. Laing is known to have voiced this poem literally hundreds of times while sober and while drunk, while at work and while at rest.
Music: Nico Di Stefano
Voice: Vincent Di Stefano
The Windhover can be streamed using the media player below. A CD quality audio file is also available for downloading here.
To Christ our Lord
I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple dawn-drawn falcon, in
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
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and
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
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.