Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Windhover (John Pick, editor) (Merrill, 1968)
[originally posted 11Jul2001]
Pick collects what he considers the best of the various schools of scholarship on Hopkins’ most-written-about sonnet and presents it in textbook fashion, complete with ideas for possible papers at the end of the book. While, obviously, such a tome is going to get a tad dry after a while, this ends up being a fascinating account of how a couple of well-placed double-entendres in a poem can spark firestorms of criticism among different schools of thought. Of particular interest is a series of letters published in a London newspaper in the mid-fifties in which three critics snipe at one another’s interpretations of the poem. It’s beautiful stuff. One wonders if literary critics are ever so on fire about anything else.
In the end, the book does what it’s supposed to do; it acquaints its readers with the differing schools of thought on Hopkins’ poem, and in doing so may illuminate the reader to ideas within the poem he had not previously seen. A good resource for Hopkins scholars. ***