Gerard Manley Hopkins was a member of the Catholic Church and a Jesuitpriest.
In his point of view poetry is a way to celebrate God’s creation,through one’s own experience (Kilmer 242). He considers that one’s meditationupon Universe leads to Christ, this ‘the human being becomes a celebration ofthe divine, at once recognising God’s creation and enchanting his or her ownGod-given identity’ (The Norton Anthology 819). Also, Hopkins is a Victorianpoet, an age when poetry is link to religion, considering that ‘many influentialVictorian clerics were also literary critics’ (Scheinberg 178). Therefore, theaim of this essay is to discuss some of the evidences of the religiousexperience in the poem The Windhover.Hopkins’ poems ‘re-enacts the imminence of presence’, therefore the poemshows a strong demiurgic posture of the poet (Zirra). Drawing by Duns Scotusphilosophy, Hopkins believed that everything is defined by ‘inscape, the distinctive design thatconstitute individual identity’ (The Norton Anthology 818).
The human kind isthe most individually creature in the Universe and recognise other creatureinscape through the act of ‘instress, theapprehension of an object in an intense thrust of energy toward it that enablesone to realise its specific distinctiveness’ (The Norton Anthology 818). Also,the instress of inscape lead to God and Christ, therefore the poem emphasise Hopkins’own religious experience through nature, God’s work of art (‘I caught’, ‘Myheart’- Hopkins). The verb ‘caught’ suggests Hopkins desire to give his poemthe unique design of the impression of the initial contact with his subject (TheNorton Anthology 819). Therefore, he presents the outstanding landscape of awindhover flight in the sunrise.
Also, ‘the stopping of the line in the middleof the word “king”- postponed until the beginning of the next verse maymimetically evoke the breath-taking surprise at the beginning of the vision'(Zirra).Furthermore, the poem’s title and subtitle illustrates the equivalentbetween Christ and the windhover ‘as there is no creature but bespeaks of God’sglory and especially here, where life is for a moment shown to be exceptional'(Zirra). The windhover, a powerful and glorious creature, flies imposing abovethe world as Christ watch on humankind (‘Of the rolling level underneath himsteady air, and striding/ High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimplingwing/ In his ecstasy!’- Hopkins 3-5). The bird is moving steadily, controllingthe air high and proud in the sky, as a king rain his kingdom. At one moment,the bird is ‘off, off forth on swing’, balancing through the force of air topropel again in the high skies.
Thus the poem is ‘about the effect of Christ’ssaving, controlling, loving appearance into the world’ (Zirra). The images of theminion (‘a mediaeval courtly page, servant, minstrel – as a lesser ministrant)’becomes first a dauphin (the kingly prince), then a Falcon (‘a more adult andsublime mediaeval emblem of orderly…’). Zirramay suggests the windhover’s gradual arrival until he appears as ‘the kind ofthe world’, exactly as Christ’s course from his childhood until his crucifixionin the name of mankind’s salvation.
Also, Hopkins believe that poetry is likeprophecy which mankind can confirm or discredit (Scheinberg 177).