The Windhover

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Here is the summary, questions, answers, and solutions of the poem The Windhover which is a part of the syllabus of class 10 English for students studying under Nagaland Board of School Education. However, the given notes/solutions should only be used for references and should be modified/changed according to needs.

The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins is a thanksgiving to Christ. In the poem, the poet begins with the description of a windhover that he sees high in the sky one day and is consumed by its beauty. The poet describes the tricks that the bird displays during its flight and compares the beauty of the bird with the love of Christ. He says that the love, and majesty of God what is a billion times greater and it is the sacrifice of Christ that has enabled us to enjoy the aspects of nature. He expresses that everything about nature and its wonder reminds him of the pain, the sacrifice, and the blood of Christ and comparing to Christ, the bird is ‘no wonder’.

Gerard Manley Hopkins’ ‘The Windhover’, is a sonnet dedicated to ‘Christ our Lord’. It is an ode to the bird, windhover. The poet’s heart is moved by the bird’s great performance. He calls the bird his knight. Whatever beauty the poet sees in nature, he attributes it to the pain and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who died to save humanity. According to him, every other thing of beauty in nature amounts to very little in comparison to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.

A. Reference to Context

Read these lines from the poem and answer the questions with reference to the context.

1. I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom
of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,

a) What did the poet see?
b) What was it doing?
c) What does he compare it to?
d) Identify an instance of alliteration in the extract.

Answer: a) The poet saw a kestrel (windhover). 

b) The bird was flying high in the sky and doing different tricks during the flight.

c) He compared it to the crown prince of the kingdom of daylight or Christ.

d) “dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn” is an instance of alliteration in the extract.

2. Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion

a) What is described in line 1?
b) What shine ‘blue-bleak’?
c) Pick out a metaphor in the extract.
d) The poet has coined a number of words. Pick out at three such words from the extract.

Answer: a) In line 1, the poet described the majesty, beauty, love, and unparalleled might of God.

b) The embers shine ‘blue bleak’.

c) In the extract, the poet is comparing the soul to ‘blue bleak embers’ which is a metaphor.

d) Three words from the extract that were coined by the poet are sillion, blue-bleak, and gold-vermillion.

B. Read and Write

1. Describe the setting of the poem.

Answer: The poem is set during dawn, possibly in a field.

2. Alliteration is the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. For instance, in the tongue twister ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’ the letter P has been repeated. Identify at least two instances of alliteration in the poem.

Answer: Two instances of alliteration in the poem are “dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn” and “morning morning’s minion.”

3. Pick out a phrase which shows the poet’s admiration for the strength and beauty of the bird.

Answer: A phrase which shows the poet’s admiration for the strength and beauty of the bird is “My heart in hiding stirred for a bird,-the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!”

4. Hopkins compares the windhover to many things. What are they? What characteristic of the bird do they reveal?

Answer: Hopkins compared the windhover with embers, furrow, and dauphin. According to the poet, the bird resembles embers as embers suddenly break out in a flame again when stirred, so does the bird rise high again after a seemingly fall. It is also like a furrow which may look dull but life springs from it. He compared to a dauphin due to its majesty and beauty during the flight which is unparalleled and worthy of being above everything else.

Appreciation

1. Hopkins uses unfamiliar words, mixes up sentence structures, and uses familiar words in totally unexpected and unfamiliar ways. He even makes up words entirely. How do these words contribute to creating the image of the windhover?

Answer: Hopkins uses unfamiliar words, mixes up sentence structures, and uses familiar words in totally unexpected and unfamiliar ways. He even makes up words entirely. All these pictures the windhover in a very extraordinary way which is a prerequisite when being compared with the qualities of Christ.

2. Hopkins has used a number of foreign words and references in the poem. Find out what they refer to: dauphin, chevalier

Answer: Dauphin is a French word for the crown prince or the one who is next in line to be king. Chevalier is also a French word for ‘knight.’

3. The poem is about a bird, but it is also open to strong religious interpretations. Discuss the significance of some of the words/ phrases from this viewpoint: kingdom, dauphin, gash, fall

Answer: The poem is about a bird, but it is also open to strong religious interpretations. The poet uses different words that serve the twin purpose of describing the windhover as well as drawing a parallel to Christ and Christianity. Who uses the term kingdom and dauphin to describe the authority of the bird during the flight, but these also point to Jesus Christ who sits next to God in the heavenly kingdom. Further, the words fall and gash describes the fall of humanity from the grace of God and the sacrifice Christ gave by bearing pain to save humanity.

4. How many lines are there in the poem? Fourteen. A poem of fourteen lines is called a sonnet. Work out the rhyming scheme of the octet (eight lines) and sestet (six lines).

Answer: Not necessary.

Extra questions and answers

1. Why do you think the windhover, in particular, inspired Hopkins to write this poem?

Answer: I think the windhover inspired Hopkins because the beauty of the windhover and its majestic performance during its flight in the sky attracted the poet very much and reminded him of the majesty of its creator.

2. Make a list of different things Hopkins compares the windhover to. What do these things have in common? What qualities do they reveal about the windhover?

Answer: Hopkins compares the windhover to different things. These are darling i.e., daylight’s dauphin, a perfect raider in control of the horse i.e., dapple, an ice skater who is smooth in his turns and finally to Christ though far less in glory and brilliance.

All these things have the quality of pride and valour in common which the poet observes in the flight of windhover.

3. What might the windhover represent to the poet?

Answer: The windhover might represent to the poet the beauty of God’s creation. The bird is just an ordinary creature but the poet finds the majesty of God’s hand in it as it who was in the sky and performs brilliant skills.

Get notes of other chapters of English of Class 10 (NBSE)


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