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The Windhover" by Gerald Manley Hopkins is a semi-romantic, religious poem dedicated to Christ. It is a usual Hopkinsian sonnet that begins with description of nature and ends in meditation about God and Christ and his beauty, greatness and grace. The poem also uses his usual "sprung rhythm", Anglo-Saxon diction, alliteration, internal rhyming, new compound metaphors, elliptical grammar and complex threads of connotation. Hopkins has mixed his romantic fascination with the nature with his religious favor of gratitude towards God for giving us a beautiful nature. The beauty of nature is hear illustrated by a wonderful bird flying in the air. He describes a bird which he saw flying in the sky that morning. Like in a romantic poem, he remembers the experience to express his feelings. That morning, the poem, we can infer that the speaker was probably in the field. His attention was suddenly drawn by the scene of a bird flying in the sky. " The Windhover is a sonnet whose octave describes the flight of a kestrel (windhover) that he saw that morning. 
The sestet is divided into two parts: the first three lines are about the bird and the comparison of the bird with Christ who is 'a billion times lovelier', and the last three lines express his memories and appreciation of Christ. But the poem is rather difficult because the poet has used odd old English words, only implications, and Christian symbols to suggest the pain (gall), wound (gash) ,blood (vermilion), sacrifice, and so the greatness of Christ. The bottom-line of the difficult ideas in this poem is that 'it is because of the sacrifice of Christ that we have such a life, and we can enjoy the majestic beauty of the nature: so we should thank him. The poem is almost impossible to understand without good background knowledge about Hopkins's ideas and his odd words. There are many words of the Anglo-Saxon origin like "rung" (past tense of 'ring' meaning go round), "minion", "dauphin", "chevalier" (prince), etc. There are also unusual combinations like "dapple-dawn-drawn", which is an image of the bird. The last stanza is particularly complex because of the associatively linked words related to Christ and his sacrifice. Finally, the grammar is also odd; actually the poem does not follow any traditional grammar and structure. In short, the poem can be discussed as a sonnet because it has some of the features of the typical sonnet, but it must be called a modified sonnet adapted to a different kind of subject, word-game and music.


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