Study Guide

The Windhover Awe and Amazement

By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Awe and Amazement

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
dom of daylight's dauphin (1-2)

The speaker is so wowed by the bird that he almost seems to be tripping over his tongue in this line—he repeats the word "morning" and repeats the M sound. His amazement overflows the first line so dramatically that the word "king-/dom" is actually broken up over two lines.

[…] My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird […] (7-8)

This is the most straightforward that the speaker gets: he tells us that his heart is deeply moved. And by what? By a bird. It might seem kind of silly to get all wound up and awestruck about something as everyday and humdrum as a bird in flight, but that's the point of the poem: there's something beautiful hidden in even the most common things.

[…]—the achieve of, the mastery of the thing! (8)

The speaker explains what it is about the bird that really gets to him. It's the bird's total control and mastery. The bird seems so perfectly designed for what he's doing, and is so absorbed and skilled at hovering on the wind, that the speaker is totally blown away.

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! […] (9-10)

The speaker lists the qualities that the bird brings together ("buckle"). That word "buckle" also suggests that those qualities almost collapse into each other (as in, "my knees buckled under the weight of my backpack and I fell down the stairs"). The fact that the speaker uses the verb act instead of the noun action might suggest the movement of the bird. The speaker is most interested, after all, in what the bird is doing, so using a verb makes sense. But the speaker also wants us make us sit up and pay more attention to familiar, everyday things (like a bird in flight), so using familiar words in unfamiliar ways might be another way to help us do that. He sure succeeded in making us pay more attention to that little word act.

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