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The Windhover
The Windhover
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The Windhover Theme of Man and the Natural World

In "The Windhover," a man goes totally nuts over a bird in flight. Why is it that he's so into birds? Is he really an ornithologist? We're guessing that he's not, since he calls the windhover "daylight's dauphin" and "dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon" (2), instead of Falco tinnunculus. There's something about seeing this bird in its natural element, hovering on the wind, that the speaker of "The Windhover" finds absolutely awe-inspiring.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. What other natural images or objects does the speaker compare the windhover to? What effect does each of those comparisons have on your reading of the poem?
  2. Why does the speaker say that the windhover is both "lovelier" and "more dangerous" in line 11? What is dangerous about it?
  3. The images that the speaker brings up in the final three lines—the "plough" and the dying "embers"—are both man-made instead of natural. Why do you think this is? Why does he not use examples of natural beauty to close the poem?

Chew on This

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

The many metaphors and similes of "The Windhover" all relate to the harnessing of natural power: the windhover itself harnesses the wind, the horseback rider controls the strength of the horse, the skater glides with control over the ice, and the plough cuts into the earth to plant seeds.

Harnessing natural power, as the windhover does, is both beautiful and potentially hazardous, which is why the speaker hints at the "danger" of the windhover's flight in 11.

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