OCR, Hopkins and the Windhover

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

Gerard Manley Hopkins has been excluded from the OCR GCSE English Literature list.  Happily, Hopkins wrote brilliantly about nature and so is a good candidate to be part of the new natural history GCSE syllabus.  One possible choice would seem to be:

The Windhover

To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
dom 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,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
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: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

As will be obvious, a windhover is a kestrel, and where I live the name is still in use: such an expressively accurate description of the bird and its flight.  I read that Hopkins said that Windhover was the best thing he'd ever written.  I'm not surprised; as a piece of nature poetry it is wonderfully inventive and is as much about the human appreciation of the bird as of the bird itself.  It's also a bit "difficult" of course, even though it rhymes.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response