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Pied Beauty (1877)

Complete Text 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 piecedfold, fallow, and plough; And ll trdes, 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 The poem opens with an offering: Glory be to God for dappled things. In the next five lines, Hopkins elaborates with examples of what things he means to include under this rubric of dappled. He includes the mottled white and blue colors of the sky, the brinded (brindled or streaked) hide of a cow, and the patches of contrasting color on a trout. The chestnuts offer a slightly more complex image: When they fall they open to reveal the meaty interior normally concealed by the hard shell; they are compared to the coals in a fire, black on the outside and glowing within. The wings of finches are multicolored, as is a patchwork of farmland in which sections look different according to whether they are planted and green, fallow, or freshly plowed. The final example is of the trades and activities of man, with their rich diversity of materials and equipment. In the final five lines, Hopkins goes on to consider more closely the characteristics of these examples he has given, attaching moral qualities now to the concept of variety and diversity that he has elaborated thus far mostly in terms of physical characteristics. The poem becomes an apology for these unconventional or strange things, things that might not normally be valued or thought beautiful. They are all, he avers, creations of God, which, in their multiplicity, point always to the unity and permanence of His power and inspire us to Praise Him. Form This is one of Hopkinss curtal (or curtailed) sonnets, in which he miniaturizes the traditional sonnet form by reducing the eight lines of the octave to six (here two tercets rhyming ABC ABC) and shortening the six lines of the sestet to four and a half. This alteration of the sonnet form is quite fitting for a poem advocating originality and contrariness. The strikingly musical repetition of sounds throughout the poem (dappled, stipple, tackle, fickle, freckled, adazzle, for example) enacts the creative act the poem glorifies: the weaving together of diverse things into a pleasing and coherent whole. Commentary This poem is a miniature or set-piece, and a kind of ritual observance. It begins and ends with variations on the mottoes of the Jesuit order (to the greater glory of God and praise to God

always), which give it a traditional flavor, tempering the unorthodoxy of its appreciations. The parallelism of the beginning and end correspond to a larger symmetry within the poem: the first part (the shortened octave) begins with God and then moves to praise his creations. The last four-and-a-half lines reverse this movement, beginning with the characteristics of things in the world and then tracing them back to a final affirmation of God. The delay of the verb in this extended sentence makes this return all the more satisfying when it comes; the long and list-like predicate, which captures the multiplicity of the created world, at last yields in the penultimate line to a striking verb of creation (fathers-forth) and then leads us to acknowledge an absolute subject, God the Creator. The poem is thus a hymn of creation, praising God by praising the created world. It expresses the theological position that the great variety in the natural world is a testimony to the perfect unity of God and the infinitude of His creative power. In the context of a Victorian age that valued uniformity, efficiency, and standardization, this theological notion takes on a tone of protest. Why does Hopkins choose to commend dappled things in particular? The first stanza would lead the reader to believe that their significance is an aesthetic one: In showing how contrasts and juxtapositions increase the richness of our surroundings, Hopkins describes variations in color and textureof the sensory. The mention of the fresh-firecoal chestnutfalls in the fourth line, however, introduces a moral tenor to the list. Though the description is still physical, the idea of a nugget of goodness imprisoned within a hard exterior invites a consideration of essential value in a way that the speckles on a cow, for example, do not. The image transcends the physical, implying how the physical links to the spiritual and meditating on the relationship between body and soul. Lines five and six then serve to connect these musings to human life and activity. Hopkins first introduces a landscape whose characteristics derive from mans alteration (the fields), and then includes trades, gear, tackle, and trim as diverse items that are man-made. But he then goes on to include these things, along with the preceding list, as part of Gods work. Hopkins does not refer explicitly to human beings themselves, or to the variations that exist among them, in his catalogue of the dappled and diverse. But the next section opens with a list of qualities (counter, original, spare, strange) which, though they doggedly refer to things rather than people, cannot but be considered in moral terms as well; Hopkinss own life, and particularly his poetry, had at the time been described in those very terms. With fickle and freckled in the eighth line, Hopkins introduces a moral and an aesthetic quality, each of which would conventionally convey a negative judgment, in order to fold even the base and the ugly back into his worshipful inventory of Gods gloriously pied creation.

Themes, Motifs and Symbols

The Manifestation of God in Nature

Hopkins used poetry to express his religious devotion, drawing his images from the natural world. He found nature inspiring and developed his theories of inscape and instress to explore the manifestation of God in every living thing. According to these theories, the recognition of an objects unique identity, which was bestowed upon that object by God, brings us closer to Christ. Similarly, the beauty of the natural worldand our appreciation of that beautyhelps us worship God. Many poems, including Hurrahing in Harvest and The Windhover,

begin with the speaker praising an aspect of nature, which then leads the speaker into a consideration of an aspect of God or Christ. For instance, in The Starlight Night, the speaker urges readers to notice the marvels of the night sky and compares the sky to a structure, which houses Christ, his mother, and the saints. The stars link to Christianity makes them more beautiful.
The Regenerative Power of Nature

Hopkinss early poetry praises nature, particularly natures unique ability to regenerate and rejuvenate. Throughout his travels in England and Ireland, Hopkins witnessed the detrimental effects of industrialization on the environment, including pollution, urbanization, and diminished rural landscapes. While he lamented these effects, he also believed in natures power of regeneration, which comes from God. In Gods Grandeur, the speaker notes the wellspring that runs through nature and through humans. While Hopkins never doubted the presence of God in nature, he became increasingly depressed by late nineteenth-century life and began to doubt natures ability to withstand human destruction. His later poems, the socalled terrible sonnets, focus on images of death, including the harvest and vultures picking at prey. Rather than depict the glory of natures rebirth, these poems depict the deaths that must occur in order for the cycle of nature to continue. Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord (1889) uses parched roots as a metaphor for despair: the speaker begs Christ to help him because Christs love will rejuvenate him, just as water helps rejuvenate dying foliage. Motifs

According to Hopkinss theory of inscape, all living things have a constantly shifting design or pattern that gives each object a unique identity. Hopkins frequently uses color to describe these inscapes. Pied Beauty praises God for giving every object a distinct visual pattern, from sunlight as multicolored as a cow to the beauty of birds wings and freshly plowed fields. Indeed, the word pied means having splotches of two or more colors. In Hurrahing in Harvest, the speaker describes azourous hung hills (9) that are very-violet-sweet (10). Elsewhere, the use of color to describe nature becomes more complicated, as in Spring. Rather than just call the birds eggs blue, the speaker describes them as resembling pieces of the sky and thus demonstrates the interlocking order of objects in the natural world. In The Windhover, the speaker yokes adjectives to convey the peculiar, precise beauty of the bird in flightand to convey the idea that natures colors are so magnificent that they require new combinations of words in order to be imagined.
Ecstatic, Transcendent Moments

Many of Hopkinss poems feature an ecstatic outcry, a moment at which the speaker expresses his transcendence of the real world into the spiritual world. The words ah, o, and oh usually signal the point at which the poem moves from a description of natures beauty to an overt expression of religious sentiment. Binsey Poplars (1879), a poem about the destruction of a forest, begins with a description of the downed trees but switches dramatically to a lamentation about the human role in the devastation; Hopkins signals the switch by not only beginning a new stanza but also by beginning the line with O (9). Hopkins also uses exclamation points and appositives to articulate ecstasy: in Carrion Comfort, the speaker concludes with two cries to Christ, one enclosed in parentheses and

punctuated with an exclamation point and the other punctuated with a period. The words and the punctuation alert the reader to the instant at which the poem shifts from secular concerns to religious feeling.
Bold Musicality

To express inscape and instress, Hopkins experimented with rhythm and sound to create sprung rhythm, a distinct musicality that resembles the patterns of natural speech in English. The flexible meter allowed Hopkins to convey the fast, swooping falcon in The Windhover and the slow movement of heavy clouds in Hurrahing in Harvest. To indicate how his lines should be read aloud, Hopkins often marked words with acute accents, as in As Kingfishers Catch Fire and Spring and Fall. Alliteration, or the juxtaposition of similar sounds, links form with content, as in this line from Gods Grandeur: And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil (6). In the act of repeating red, our mouths make a long, low sound that resembles the languid movements of humans made tired from factory labor. Elsewhere, the alliterative lines become another way of worshiping the divine because the sounds roll and bump together in pleasure. Spring begins, Nothing is so beautiful as Spring / When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush (12). Symbols

Birds appear throughout Hopkinss poetry, frequently as stand-ins for God and Christ. In The Windhover, a poem dedicated to Christ, the speaker watches a falcon flying through the sky and finds traces of Christ in its flight path. The beauty of the bird causes the speaker to reflect on the beauty of Christ because the speaker sees a divine imprint on all living things. Similarly, As Kingfishers Catch Fire meditates on the innate behaviors and patterns of beings in the universe: the inscape of birds manifests in their flights, much as the inscape of stone manifests in the sound of flowing water. Christ appears everywhere in these inscape manifestations. In Christian iconography, birds serve as reminders that there is life away from earth, in heavenand the Holy Ghost is often represented as a dove. Gods Grandeur portrays the Holy Ghost literally, as a bird big enough to brood over the entire world, protecting all its inhabitants.

Hopkins uses images of fire to symbolize the passion behind religious feeling, as well as to symbolize God and Christ. In Gods Grandeur, Hopkins compares the glory of God and the beautiful bounty of his world to fire, a miraculous presence that warms and beguiles those nearby. He links fire and Christ in The Windhover, as the speaker sees a flame burst at the exact moment in which he realizes that the falcon contains Christ. Likewise, As Kingfishers Catch Fire uses the phrase catch fire as a metaphor for the birds manifestation of the divine imprint, or inscape, in their natural behavior. In that poem too, the dragonflies draw flame (1), or create light, to show their distinct identities as living things. Natures fire lightningappears in other poems as a way of demonstrating the innate signs of God and Christ in the natural world: God and Christ appear throughout nature, regardless of whether humans are there to witness their appearances.


Trees appear in Hopkinss poems to dramatize the earthly effects of time and to show the detrimental effects of humans on nature. In Spring and Fall, the changing seasons become a metaphor for maturation, aging, and the life cycle, as the speaker explains death to a young girl: all mortal things die, just as all deciduous trees lose their leaves. In Binsey Poplars, the speaker mourns the loss of a forest from human destruction, then urges readers to be mindful of damaging the natural world. Cutting down a tree becomes a metaphor for the larger destruction being enacted by nineteenth-century urbanization and industrialization. Trees help make an area more beautiful, but they do not manifest God or Christ in the same way as animate objects, such as animals or humans.

Line 1
Glory be to God for dappled things

The speaker says that we should give glory to God for having created "dappled," or spotted things. If you're worried about not knowing exactly what "dappled" looks like, fear not: Hopkins is going to give you lots of examples. "Glory be to God" is a way of giving praise. If you've been to a service at a Christian Church, you might have heard this phrase before. Often it is sung in church hymns. In fact, the "hymn to creation" is a popular genre of hymn, which gives praise to God for all the things He has created. The speaker points to "dappled" things in particular. The "hymn to creation" is inspired by the Psalms in the Old Testament. These short songs are traditionally thought to have been written by King David of Israel (yes, the one with the sling shot who took on Goliath). Psalm 148 is one of the original hymns to creation: Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.

As an ordained priest, Hopkins would have known these hymns well.

Line 2
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

The speaker gives examples of "dappled things." In this poem, at least, "dappled" refers to things with multiplied colors. Hopkins's first example is really two examples in one. "Skies of couple-color" are skies that have two colors. The most obvious possibilities are blue and white in a clear sky that is "dappled" or streaked with clouds. This image in turn reminds the speaker of a "brinded cow." This line surely has to be the most famous usage of "brinded" in all of literature. The word means to have hair with brownish spots or streaks. It means the same thing as the more common word "brindle," often used to describe the color of dogs like boxers or pit bulls.

"Brindle" is also a kind of cow, but maybe not the one you'd expect. If you're anything like us, you were probably thinking of the famous black-and-white Holstein cows. But brindled cows have a much more uneven coloring, usually in shades of brown. So there you go: a little lesson in livestock.

Line 3
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

The small light-reddish dots or "rose-moles" on the side of trout are another example of "dappled things." They look like they have been drawn "in stipple" on the trout's body. "Stipple" is a technique in arts like drawing, painting, and sewing, to create texture through the use of small dots. (Here's an example.) Many trout, such as this Brown Trout, do have red dots on their bodies. You may have noticed by now that Hopkins likes to use hyphens to create new words. "Couple-color" was one example, and "rose-moles" is another.

Line 4
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;

And here come two more hyphenated words, along with two more examples of "dappled things." The first example is "Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls." This is probably the trickiest image in the poem, partly because we're not nearly as familiar with chestnuts as 19th-century English people would have been. "Chestnut-falls" is not too hard to imagine. It refers to chestnuts that have fallen off the chestnut tree. This hyphenated word points to the specific chestnuts that have fallen from the tree. But "Fresh-firecoal" requires some background on nuts, a field we at Shmoop like to call nutology. When they are on a tree, chestnuts are covered by a spiky, light-green covering, but the nuts themselves are reddish-brown. (Here's a picture.) When the nuts fall, they are "fresh" from the tree. Because of the contrast of red nuts with their outer covering, they look like the burning of coals inside a fire. To add another layer to this chestnut conundrum, people also like to cook these delectable nuts over fire. When the nuts get hot, they open up to reveal their "meat," inside. These opened chestnuts also look like embers. We're almost certain you now know more than you ever wanted to about chestnuts. Fortunately, the second example of a "dappled thing" in this line is much easier. Finches are small birds with streaks and spots. (Here's a photo.) The speaker focuses only on the finches' wings a sign of his great attention to detail.

Line 5
Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough;

Another dappled thing: the English landscape, divided up into different "plots" and "pieces" for farming and raising livestock. A "fold" is a fenced-in area for sheep, "fallow" describes a field that has been left empty, and the "plough" is a tool used to turn over the topsoil before planting crops.

So far, the poem has not distinguished between big and small things. The cloud-speckled skies are comparable to the dots on a fish, despite the fact that these things are very different in size. Here the speaker transitions from a very small example the "finches' wings" to whole fields. He's also using a lot of alliteration, and "plotted/pierced" and "fold/fallow" are examples from this line. Finally, the speaker makes no distinction between untouched parts of nature and the parts that have been adapted by humans. According to the speaker, farming is a part of God's creation, just like the finches and the fish.

Line 6
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

The speaker widens his focus from a single trade, or skilled job farming to all trades. He chooses three to represent the tools or accessories of all different kinds of jobs. Without delving too deep into their many possible uses, the words "gear and tackle and trim" point to fishing, sailing, and clothes-making, among other trades. "Trade" sounds old-fashioned now, but it suggests a natural connection between a person and his or her life's work. In this line, the dappled or spotted appearance of things becomes a metaphor for variety and mixture. In other words, the poem sets up a transition where "dappled" has a wider meaning in the second stanza. This meaning stands in direct contrast to the scope of the first stanza, in which the speaker focuses mainly on the visual.

Line 7
All things counter, original, spare, strange;

The speaker expands and elaborates upon his list of things for which to praise God. Rather than list specific objects, he uses adjectives to describe their qualities. The items in the list are characterized by their uniqueness. They are "counter" to what is normal; they are original, they are "spare" and don't appear in great numbers; and they are "strange" or unusual. Remember, in this poem, Hopkins is primarily concerned with the quirky and unusual things in nature.

Line 8
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

This line gives two more adjectives to add to our main adjective, "dapple." Surprise, surprise, they begin with the same letter: "fickle" means something that changes a lot, and "freckled" returns to the topic of spots or dots. In other contexts, "fickle" can be a negative quality in a person who changes his or her mind too often, but in nature, fickleness brings about new things at which we can marvel. In parentheses, the speaker voices his private wonder at how all these things acquired their "pied beauty."

Line 9
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

Check out the semi-colons in this line. They mark the division between three pairs of opposites: fast and slow, sweet and sour, and bright ("adazzle") and dim. The speaker doesn't know how it's possible for one thing to be "freckled" with two opposite qualities. Think of a slice of sugary lemon cake, which is both sweet and sour. Hopkins would be in ecstasies over that slice of cake. How'd they do that?

Line 10
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

The speaker says that God is the "father" of all these beautiful things, but his own beauty never changes. According to Christian thought, God remains the same even as the world he created constantly shifts and flows. We think that Hopkins must have read his Shakespeare. The phrase "fathers-forth," which means "to bring into existence," resembles a line from Shakespeare's Hamlet. The character Hamlet sarcastically notes that his mother's marriage to his uncle after his father's death was so fast that "The funeral bak'd meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables" (Act 1, Scene 2).

Line 12
Praise Him.

The end of the poem circles back to the beginning of the poem and the idea of praise and glory. The phrase "Praise Him" occurs over and over again the Psalms, and Psalm 148 in particular. This simple declaration of humility contrasts with the high-flying language and rhetoric that comes before. This statement could be a two-word summary for the entire poem.