Archive for June, 2015

The World Has “Gone to the Birds”… but the birds are leaving


This is a kestrel.

Gerard Hopkins was so impressed by seeing one flying one morning in 1877, he wrote a kind of love poem to and about it. That poem became so famous that it’s now been recited by many people since it was actually published in 1918, even including John-Boy Walton, and Bart Simpson!

The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins

To Christ our Lord
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,
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!

Yellow Breasted Bunting

This is a Yellow-Breasted Bunting. It may not be quite so majestic and powerful as the common falcon, but it is quite cute and very colourful, for all that. Perhaps a cross between a mere humble sparrow and a more colourful canary or goldfinch, it is certainly a snappy dresser in its uniform of brown and yellow plumage.

In the last 35 years, its population has declined by about 90%.

The connection between these two birds? Just the ideas that it would have been interesting to have seen what Gerard Manly Hopkins would have written on watching a murmur of Yellow-Brested Buntings flying all together, and then going to roost all together. And it would have been interesting to have read how many of either such bird in the year this poem was written, or published, or even just featured in the Waltons, or the Simpsons…

No wonder of it: shèer plòd makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold vermilion.


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