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The Windhover

The Windhover

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Appearances Theme

"The Windhover" is about the speaker's admiration for a beautiful bird, true. But it also touches on some bigger philosophical questions—like how even boring, everyday objects can appear beautiful and amazing if only we know how to look at them in the right way. This poem is partly meant to show us how to open our eyes to see the beauty hidden in everyday things.

Questions About Appearances

  • The speaker describes the windhover using a series of similes and metaphors. What does he compare the bird to, and why do you think he makes those choices? What do the things he compares the bird to have in common? 
  • In the sestet of the poem (the last 6 lines), the speaker brings up two other common, everyday objects: the plough and embers from a fire. What do these things have in common with the windhover? Why bring them up at all?
  • If you were going to write a poem about a common, everyday object in order to show how it had a kind of hidden beauty, like the windhover, what object would you choose, and why? In what way is this object beautiful?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The windhover appears beautiful because of the speaker's ability to see beneath the surface.

It is actually the surface beauty and power that the speaker admires in the windhover, rather than its hidden qualities.

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