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.
About this poem
Introduced by a variety of writers, artists and other guests, the Scottish Poetry Library’s classic poem selections are a reminder of wonderful poems to rediscover.
Phil Kay on 'The Windhover':
It is so bold and flowing like a modern rap and here he goes for it. Gerard, like his whole life was a running rhyme, avoiding the normal structures.
He dares right off the bat to say he caught a bird … caught it… no not with a net; caught sight, caught a glimpse … he himself the hunter of beauty, a gatherer of undying prey for the imagination.
So, right away a start you have to re-evaluate as soon as it is read maybe like the whole way the eye sees a bird in the sky in the periphery and then double-takes back to it up there in those heavens. 'I caught,' and kept in a cage forever? No… caught for a second as an image then followed it as a concept and as it hatches into an idea and a flying realization.
The poem is to Christ; the poem is one of those works about passion though the passion had to be about God and then later nature and then even later, well after it was published, the beautiful god of one's own nature.
It repeats words like no one would teach you to, yet it is not ridiculous it is just a phrasing game playing homage to the hovering kestrel the prince of the morning and the only realm it can be talked about in is the realm of another animal; the way a horse can be kind of held and guided by man yet we all know the horse has to consent. And it can have its consent forcedly imposed.
So he doesn't bother straying too long to another metaphor to explain this Thing and gets right back into just adoring it and so adoring life and adoring Christ in that extremely open, horny, Victorian class gender gay love thing. Loving a man's sleeves'his breeding and his big wind.
'Big wind' … Who ever heard a better way to tell it? No one.
'My heart in hiding' … What within the chest or the whole angle of the lifestyle of illegal, verboten, have to travel to Europe to get some wine and free loving. Loving free from boundary and free from approval. The gay loves of the time seem to me just metaphorical sometime for the love that humans wanted to feel for each other and the world and yet could not at a time when kids were up chimneys, fresh air in hospitals was still a pipe dream and it was only four generations back to when the plague killed a third of Europe.
The bird is doing what Gerard was doing hovering bravely playing with the winds and just remaining dynamic enough to be beautiful in plumage and adored and legal and yet any minute about to dive and savage and feed on his chosen one down on the ground unseen and privately in the rough natural style of the wind lover.
You got to love the forces that support you.
'Oh air pride plume here buckle' … i have left out the commas … 'a billion times told lovelier, more dangerous, o my chevalier.' Fabulous stuff … we love the things we want to be, that represent the virtues we love and are. Gerard was open to writing so that this came out without the actual heady prejudged aim to transmit just this. He was not stuck.
However i have not ever read anything about him so i may be all wrong.
Good luck with the words dear reader for that is what i love best: the word choice the word order the audacious punctuation. Oh, the brute and his modernity. It's like we invented being free and groovy and wild to keep up with him. It's like we invented free language to keep up with us amazing humans and our wild and groovy ways.
Just keep reading it over and over.
Phil Kay launched his stand-up comedy career with a bang in 1989, quickly garnering a host of awards, nominations and glowing reviews. Since then, the plaudits have never stopped as he conquered first the live stage and then television, with appearances on such shows as Phil Kay Feels, (Channel 4), Next Stop Phil Kay (Channel 4), Edinburgh Nights (BBC1), Montreal Festival of Fun (Channel 5) and plenty more besides. Phil's first love, however, remains live stage work and only by watching his live performances will audiences really see him at his very best. Phil tours Britain regularly and is a firm favourite at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where he performs yearly to sell-out crowds and critical acclaim. Over the years he has completed several highly successful tours of Australia, performing at the Adelaide and Melbourne Festivals. Since then, he has travelled the length and breadth of the globe administering his special blend of comedy genius. Phil has also worked as a warm-up man on television shows, including Jonathan Ross's Saturday Show, Channel 4's Viva Cabaret, The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, Sean's Show and Harry Hill's Pilot Show.