Gerard Manley Hopkins | The Ampersand

Over the lat few weeks I have been thinking about Gerard Manley Hopkins a lot. Truth is, I think about him a lot anyway, but somehow his poem, The Windhover, has really been playing in me deeply. One thing about the poem I have always admired is how Hopkins uses the word ‘AND’. The sonnet is so tightly put together that its various themes all hing on that word, a conjunctive even. The joy, the theology, the transformation of bird to Christ, of man to Jesuit, and even the srung rhythm of the poem, all break out and express themselves through the ‘AND’.

A while back I did a podcast for Paradosis on Ancient Faith Radio on The Windhover. You can find and listen to that here. There is a transcript of that podcast too, which is posted here.

ANYWAY! So, as a way of meditating on the poem, I tried to express the poems meaning through design. Hopkins always said that his poems are meant to be read aloud. This design of the poem does not lend itself to reading aloud, to be sure, but it is meant to express visually the flight of the bird, the inherent rhythm and movement of the first lines, the stability and clarity which emerges from the last lines, and however everything is tied to and emerges from that simple conjunctive. What is more, I became kind of obsessed with ampersands in the process. Wow, what a letter form! A lot of time was spent just thinking about the concept and coolness of the ampersand. It is really a happy coincidence that the ampersand is the only character that both expresses the windhover in flight and significance of itself in the structure of the poem.

Fonts used were Zapfino and Brioso Pro.

So here is the poem, sans ampersand:

12. 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-vermillion.


The Windhover by Gerard Manly Hopkins
The Windhover by Gerard Manly Hopkins

Kaleeg W. Hainsworth

Dad of three kids, author (An Altar in the Wilderness), priest in awesome church, President of Bright Wing Media, designer, author, speaker, podcaster, backpacker, ecologist, film maker

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