Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour 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 áll trádes, 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.

Summary and Explanation

‘Pied Beauty’ is a curtal sonnet, that is, a sonnet which has less than fourteen lines. It has ten and a half lines in all. Hopkins wrote only two curtal sonnets, the other being ‘Peace’. Here the main qualities of a sonnet are retained, but in a circumscribed manner.

The theme of the poem is the praise and glorification of God for creating various multi-coloured, multi-shaped and multi-natured things in this world. He begins the poem by this praise. He says “Glory be to God for dappled things”. The poet catalogues the various things which change from moment to moment, from season to season. He praises the sky which is many-coloured and compares it with a “brinded” cow. He also praises God for creating the fish with black-spots on their rose-coloured skin. And he also praises God for the fallen chest-nuts and the green core which encloses it. Hopkins is all praise for God for the patchwork of landscapes, changing according to time and space.

The poet praises God for creating all fish and fowl, men and animals. It is from God that all animate and inanimate objects take life. Hopkins gives a catalogue of all the things created by God for which praise be His. Beginning with praise, the poem builds up through a description of a variety of beautiful things which either are pied or contain opposites of various kinds – colour, taste, speed, brightness- to an assertion of the Creator of them, whose ability to comprehend the paradoxes within his unity aptly demand praise.


Pied Beauty’ is a dazzling creation of Hopkins. It is a ‘curtal sonnet’ a sonnet curtailed in length. Instead of having the traditional fourteen lines, it consists of ten and a half lines.Hopkins used this curtal form only in two of his poems, in the present poem and in ‘Peace’. The curtal form was an original invention of Hopkins. Still the poet is able to retain all the essential characteristics of a sonnet- it has an octave and a sestet. The Octave consists of the first six lines while the last four and a half lines form the sestet. The metre of this poem is‘sprung paeonic.’ A paeonic foot has one stressed and three unstressed syllables.

The religious fervour of the poems is extremely remarkable. According to Norman H.Mackenzie, “Hopkins praises God for brindled cows and the blacksmith’s anvil as well as for the so-called poetic objects around him. He whose beauty is past change is recognized as fathering forth the slow and the sour, the shade as well as the light, pleasant little echoes ripple and lap through the poem – dappled, couple, stipple, tackle, fickle, freckled, a dazzle.

Even though it is unwise and hard to categorize a poet’s works, the poems of Hopkins can be divided into two categories: the poems written between 1876 and 1879 as nature poems expressing joy, positive faith and mystical perception and those written between 1879and 1885 as poems on man trying to adjust himself to a difficult world. But whether a poet of nature or of man God was always supreme in the mind of Hopkins.

Hopkins had great admiration for Wordsworth. But Wordsworth was a pantheist;Hopkins, a true Catholic. So God is apart from Nature, to Hopkins God is an artist, the Master-creator of beauty, for Hopkins. And the beauty of created things is a message from God, that behind ‘Pied Beauty’, varied and shifting, is the creator, changeless, eternal, One.The poem expresses the poets’ joyous wonder at the beauty of the work, of a joy enhanced because creation is seen sacramentally and because he himself is using beauty to praise his Maker. The beauty of created things, including the beauty of Nature is not permanent, but only by knowing transient beauty in the many, can the heart grasp the ‘Immutable Beauty’ of God.God is Beauty is itself. So praise Him; let it be your duty and your delight.

Hopkins uses the technique of enumeration in the poem. He is a poet of particulars,here. He catalogues things which change form moment to moment, form season to season: the changing patterns of the sky, the contrast between the rich, red-brown nut of the fallen chestnut and the green husk or case which encloses it ; the patchwork of landscape changing according to time and place; the green pasture-land, the dull fawn-brown fallow lands, the deep brown ploughed lands ; the different implements of artisans and workmen; he catalogues them all. Then he generalizes, contrasting the anithesis of life, things set in opposition. All these things are products of God.Yet God Himself is ‘past’ or above change. He creates, but He is not the same as His creations. These things praise Him; are meant to praise Him.

In his Nature poetry, Hopkins betrayed as complete and unashamed a sensuousness as Keates himself . He fuses a Keatsian immediacy of sense perception with the spiritual tranquility of Wordsworth and his sublime healing power. ‘Pied beauty’ shows how alert and alive, his sensuous faculties were. The poet is ‘adazzled ‘ by different colours in Nature; his physical feelings are stirred by thought of earthly occupation: he is aware of the sweet-sourtastes of life . As for the power of concentration shown by the poet the original poem has to be placed by the side of a paraphrase to understand the poet’s ‘nutty’ style. The compound-words, like ‘Fresh fire coal, Chestnut-falls, are full of force and meaning. At the same time, the poem is a good example of the violence to syntax and grammar.

To understand what ‘Inscape’ was to Hopkins, one need read only ‘Pied Beauty’. The poem is full of image to give an idea of the variety and ‘dapple’ of the world, giving experiences of inscape in nature. For ‘Cynghanedd’, the Welsh art of making intricated and beautiful patterns of speech sound which Hopkins turned to good use in his poems, lines like with swift, slow , sweet sour addazle, dim are good examples. This is the art of alliteration by which language in inscaped.

Like Milton who rose to greatness by writing poetry to vindicate the ways of God to men’, Hopkins, by nature a dreamer and a sensualist, only raises himself to greatness by writing poetry for ‘great causes as liberty and religion’. In dong this , he had to sublimate his petice power. In a poem like ‘Pied Beauty’ we see how he did it . There is sensualism in the poem; there is no asceticism. It is a tribute to God’s glory, as all poetry must be ; but they are tributes of the senses.

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