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Pied Beauty -- Gerard Manley Hopkins

(Poem #134) Pied Beauty
Glory be to God for dappled things,
For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow,
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls, finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced, fold, fallow and plough,
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange,
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim.
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change;
Praise him.
-- Gerard Manley Hopkins
A passionate Christianity made a poet out of Gerard Manley Hopkins;
without its influence, it is doubtful that he would have been moved to
such eloquence or such depth of feeling; yet with it to spark his genius
into flame, he crafted a number of brilliantly original, startlingly
beautiful poems.

His belief in an omnipotent Creator enabled him to see an especial
beauty in the world of Nature - the unpredictable, untamed patterns of
the wilderness combining to form a whole far greater than the sum of its
parts, glorious and 'true'. But what sets his verse apart from the
hordes (I use the word advisedly :-)) of Victorian nature poets was his
ability to merge form and content to such a degree of utter perfection -
his poetry _sounds_ right; his word-paintings leap off the printed page
without traversing the intervening bridge of ordinary 'meaning'.

Consider the structure of today's poem - there's a riot of assonance and
alliteration, but it's combined with a an unusually high
consonant-density; there's a strong underlying rhythm in the pattern of
the stresses, but it's never plodding or weighty (indeed, the variations
in the unstressed syllables ensure that the verse is kept flexible and
'clean'); the rhymes, though strictly enforced, are kept from becoming
monotonous by an unusual (abcabcdbcdc) rhyme scheme... All these combine
to create a wonderfully sonorous soundscape, the rising and falling
cadences like water in a mountain stream, trickling over rocks and
through rapids, in swirls and eddies and falls, neither smooth nor
unbroken, yet flowing, flowing like 'skies of couple-colour'. And the
overall effect is to sound what 'dappled' is to light. Perfect.


For a brief bio, read the commentary at poem #35

'Sprung Rhythm' is Gerard Manley Hopkins' term for a complex and very
technically involved system of metrics which he derived partly from his
knowledge of Welsh poetry. It is opposed specifically to "running" or
"common" rhythm, and provides for feet of lengths varying from one
syllable to four, with either "rising" or "falling" rhythm.
    -- from the Victorian Web,
[broken link]

52 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Patrick Schembri said...

Please can you send me a summary and other notes on Pied Beauty?

Please if you can send me these on :

Thank you so much!

Vickie Frazier said...

As many of us strive for perfection, which is unattainable, or societies ideas of what we should be, Hopkins reminds us of the beauty in the imperfection. He shows us that God has made all things beautiful just as they are.

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