The inspiration for "The Windhover" is the speaker's awe and amazement at the windhover's awesome and amazing skill at hovering on the wind, so you better believe that he's more than a little impressed. One of Hopkins's goals in writing poetry was to inspire his readers with the same kind of awe and amazement that he felt when looking at simple, everyday objects—like a bird in flight. And we'd say this poem succeeds.
The speaker of "The Windhover" feels a sense of awe at the bird's ability to harness a natural element as powerful and unpredictable as the wind.
The speaker of "The Windhover" wants to inspire the reader with a sense of amazement at even the most apparently mundane, everyday objects, like a bird in flight, or like a plough, or a bed of dying embers.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
We can't discuss "The Windhover" without talking about the poet's inspiration for writing: the awe-inspiring strength and skill of the bird itself. This bird, commonly called a windhover because of its ability to hover on the wind, can actually fly in place in the air, even with high winds buffeting it around. (Don't believe us, or having trouble visualizing it? Go check out a video of a kestrel hovering in the air in the "Best of the Web" section.) No wonder Hopkins felt inspired.
The poet was clearly showboating as he wrote "The Windhover": his incredible skill at crafting a Petrarchan sonnet with a revolutionary new meter throws his own poetic skill in the reader's face.
The fact that the speaker hardly identifies himself at all, but focuses entirely on the bird, suggests that the motivation for writing the poem is purely admiration for the strength and skill of the windhover.