Practice Midterm Exam – The Windhover

#vizpoem This poem seems to be describing seeing (I Caught) a bird who, who the author compares to a king (minion, kingdom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon) who was hovering (in his riding) in the air in the morning (Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding High there, how he run upon the rein of a wimpling wing).  The author compares how the bird glides on its own curved blade (As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend).  The bird then takes off (hurl) quickly and glides effortlessly even in strong winds (rebuffed the big wind).  The author tends to overstate how much he admires the way the bird can hover and then just instantly start flying again (My heart in hiding Stirred for a bird, — the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!)

The poem actually starts off with “To Christ our Lord” which leads me to think that the author is somehow comparing the bird to Christ (Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here Buckle!).  It seems like the author thinks the bird is like Christ because of its powers at being able to hover even through strong winds (O my chevalier!), powers that can be considered dangerous because of how it hovers in wait of striking at prey, just as it can be considered that Christ hovers above us all waiting to “strike” someone with his powers of healing.

There are a few instances of enjambment when a line is broken up with a hyphen (king-dom) which emphasizes a reference to “king” and “kingdom,” again relating back to religion.  In the first 8 lines that all end with “ing.”  The last 3 lines reference “shiny things” (sillion shine,” “blue-beak embers” and also references “gall themselves, gash gold-vermillion” which could also be referring to Christ dying on the cross and bleeding.

Overall, I believe there is a definite religious tone to this sonnet as the author is comparing a bird to a king (i.e., Christ).


One thought on “Practice Midterm Exam – The Windhover

  1. So when you are quoting language from the poem to support your reasoning, make sure to fix your point to specific words. For example, the point in your second line could be more profitably done in this way: the poem compares the bird to a king: the speaker is his “minion,” within a “kingdom” of which the bird is “dauphin,” the French word for “prince.”‘

    In your second paragraph, I don’t see how the line you quoted (“Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here Buckle!”) supports your point that the bird is a metaphor for Christ. I also don’t see how “oh, my chevalier!” helps, especially since in your last paragraph you mention kingdoms, and “chevaliers” is the word for French knights, which are more on the worldy end of the worldly-spiritual spectrum. HOWEVA, you are quite right to point to the epigraph to start off the association. You’ll just need to spell out your conclusions at more length — don’t try to mention the enjambment of “king- /dom” and then simply state that it supports a religious reading. What you might try instead is to suggest what we can infer about that enjambment if we have already gotten a strong hint to read Christ as the audience.

    I’m also intrigued about the speaker’s use of “strike” but I’m not convinced that it’s an entirely peaceful or even kind shout-out. The bird if masterful, beautiful (especially with the sun as its backdrop) and a little terrifying — it’s sublime, in other words. Perhaps try to do something with that?


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