The Poem (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
“Pied Beauty” is a rhymed “curtal” (shortened) sonnet divided into two stanzas, consisting of three full tercets and a truncated fourth. The title refers to the variegated beauty of the world that first may appear ugly or chaotic. Though “pied” suggests at least two tones or colors, it also suggests a blotched or botched effect, as when in an earlier era, a printer spilled a galley of set type, creating a printer’s “pie.”
Though traditional sonnets are fourteen lines, Gerard Manley Hopkins, in his experiments with poetic form, line, and meter, altered the shape of the sonnet. In the case of “Pied Beauty,” he “curtailed” or shortened the sonnet’s traditional fourteen lines to eleven; in some other cases, he lengthened the form and wrote sonnets “with codas,” or tails.
The poem celebrates God for the beauty in a varied creation. Hopkins, a devout Jesuit priest, isolates a number of instances of this “pied” or dappled beauty in the first stanza (lines 1-6). He finds it in two-toned skies as well as on cows, on spotted trout, and on the wings of birds. He also sees variety and unity in the contrasts between all these life-forms, for he sees echoes of plants on fish—“rose-molesupon trout,” echoes of the dying embers of fires in the chestnuts falling from the tree.
In fact, the first stanza catalogs God’s infinite variety in creation in instances that symbolize all life as well as inanimate...
(The entire section is 473 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Forms and Devices (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
Characteristic of Hopkins is his use of a variety of intricate sound devices, each heightened or altered in some untraditional way. Hopkins’s idiosyncratic and innovative techniques perhaps explain why the majority of his poems were published only in the first decades of the twentieth century, nearly thirty years after his death. “Pied Beauty” consists of patterns of such idiosyncracy in its alliteration, assonance, neologism, archaism, end rhyme, and rhythm. All these patterns interconnect and contrast with one another so that the poem itself is an example of “pied” beauty, or mixed elements.
Thus the alliterative g sounds of the first line (“GloryGod”) give way to the l sound, which echoes in “dappled,” “couple,” “colour,” “moles,” and “stipple,” interconnecting the patterns of the first three lines with the entire first stanza. The alliterative pattern of sounds connects the “couple-colour” of the sky to the skin of the “cow.” The c sounds are thus “pied” or combined in contrast with the l sounds.
At first glance, a word such as “rose-moles” seems both odd and hard to pronounce because the assonance of the o sounds contrasts with the following consonants of s and l. It is a near rhyme or off-rhyme that occasionally turns a Hopkins lyric into a near tongue twister. Even a sympathetic reader may wonder what a rose-mole is, for it...
(The entire section is 526 words.)