The Windhover | Rev. Charlie Dupree

Around this time of year, I like to notice birds . . . soaring. As the weather warms up, I like to imagine the birds, literally, stretching their wings as they ride the warm thermals that keep them afloat. How good it must feel to bend and stretch on the wings of the wind. Whenever I see one of these broad, soaring birds, I always think of the following poem . . .


The Windhover
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

~ 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,
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
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-vermilion.


Gerard Manley Hopkins was a Jesuit priest (1844-1889). I just noticed, for the first time, the dedication: to Christ our Lord. I wonder if this poem was a way for Hopkins to pay tribute to the power of Jesus, even as Jesus moves toward the Cross? I wonder if the poet saw Jesus as a powerful and elegant bird, ever in control and steering the winds? Vermillion refers to a red/orange color. I wonder if “gashing gold vermillion” refers to the valuable blood that will be spilled. A mixture of human and royal.

I wonder . . . As we approach Palm Sunday and Holy week (calendar below), you might think of the power of Jesus as he moves toward the Cross. I wonder if, even under insult and injury, Jesus was ever stirred by a bird. I imagine he was. I also imagine these birds were carriers of silent prayers as they soared and glided, perhaps casting their shadows on the Lord of Life, keeping him cool, if only for a moment.

Enjoy the poem. Enjoy the birds.

See you in church,