Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 446
Though “Hurrahing in Harvest” is just as rich in diction and ideas as “God’s Grandeur” and “The Windhover,” it may seem more accessible to beginning readers of Hopkins because the poet’s vision and actions are simpler. In the first quatrain, he observes with wonder the beauties of the harvest season, the piling of the grain for threshing, and the wind and clouds of the sky. On both levels, he sees harvest, for he finds in the clouds images of winnowing grain. In the second quatrain, he recounts his experience of walking through such a landscape. As he walks, his heart and his eyes glean, or gather, the remains of the harvest, and what they glean is Christ, “our saviour.” Gathering up visions of Christ in the landscape, he sees Christ as a lover speaking to him through the landscape: “What lips yet gave you a/ Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?” Rapturous love, however, points beyond a comparison of Christ with a lover, for “rapture” shares the root meaning of “raptor,” a bird of prey like the windhover, that seizes its prey and carries it into the sky. For a Christian, the Rapture is that moment when the soul is caught up into Heaven for the final judgment. Christ as rapturous lover is, therefore, an apt image of Christ the savior and the judge, who in the variety of ways observed in “The Windhover” offers to bring the faithful soul out of sin and into the bosom of God.
In the sestet, the poet sees the autumn hills beneath the rich blue sky as Christ’s shoulders, capable of lifting the world like a strong but sweet-smelling stallion. He reflects that this world is always present, waiting to speak in this way to a beholder. When the beholder, in this case the poet, appears, then his heart grows bold wings with tremendous strength to hurl the earth away from his feet. In this way, the heart becomes the raptor, drawing the body with it heavenward, toward God.
Though this poem is clearly typical of Hopkins in its themes and technique, it also can remind readers vividly of seventeenth century Metaphysical poetry, where the figure of Christ as a lover is not uncommon, as in John Donne’s “Batter My Heart, Three-Person’d God.” Like his American contemporary, Emily Dickinson, Hopkins was drawn to Metaphysical conceits, those sometimes shocking comparisons, so delightful in Donne’s poetry, that are capable of moving and astonishing effects. Such an effect occurs when the wings of the poet’s heart carry his body into the air, wittily and somewhat humorously suggesting his imminent ascension into Heaven.