When I would think of you, my mind holds only
The small defiant kestrels — how they cut
The raincloud with sharp wings, continually circling
About a storm-rocked elm, with passionate cries.
It was an early month. The plow cut hard.
The May was knobbed with chilly buds.
My folly was great enough to lull away my pride.
There is no virtue now in blind reliance
On place or person or the forms of love.
The storm bears down the pivotal tree, the cloud
Turns to the net of an inhuman fowler
And drags us from the air. Our wings are clipped.
Yet still our love and luck lies in our parting:
Those cries and wings surprise our surest act.
-- Sidney Keyes
The WindhoverThese have as subject the same small bird of prey. I found the first in an anthology I keep bedside these nights. It's little-known, appears in no other anthology. The other popped up while I was searching out kestrel stuff on web. It's one of the poet's better-known, appears frequently in anthologies. As you'd expect they make similar use of falcon flight, yet I was pleasantly surprised to see plows and furrows appear in both.
(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: sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.
-- Gerard Manley Hopkins
- Common Kestrel in wikipedia
- Sidney Keyes entry on findagrave.com
- Sidney Keyes entry in wikipedia
- The Windhover" a student essay on the Hopkins poem
- What is sillion? about the use of the word in Hopkins' poem
- “The Windhover”, an analysis on poetryfoundation.org by Ange Mlinko