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The confusing grammatical structures and sentence order in this sonnet contribute to its difficulty, but they also represent a masterful use of language. Hopkins blends and confuses adjectives, verbs, and subjects in order to echo his theme of smooth merging: the bird's perfect immersion in the air, and the fact that his self and his action are inseparable. Note, too, how important the "-ing" ending is to the poem's rhyme scheme; it occurs in verbs, adjectives, and nouns, linking the different parts of the sentences together in an intense unity. A great number of verbs are packed into a short space of lines, as Hopkins tries to nail down with as much descriptive precision as possible the exact character of the bird's motion.

"The Windhover" is written in "sprung rhythm," a meter in which the number of accents in a line is counted but the number of syllables does not matter. This technique allows Hopkins to vary the speed of his lines so as to capture the bird's pausing and racing. Listen to the hovering rhythm of "the rolling level underneath him steady air," and the arched brightness of "and striding high there," The poem slows abruptly at the end, pausing in awe to reflect on Christ.


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