Describe the tone of religious devotion in the poem "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

 Gerard Manley Hopkins was a priest and teacher.  His poetry always portrayed God’s presence in every aspect of nature.  Hopkins did not write his poetry for his own personal gratification.  In fact, his poems were not published until thirty years after his death.  His purpose was to glorify God in every word that he wrote.

His poem “Pied Beauty” venerates the aspects of life that are multi-colored or different. The tone of his poem gives voice to his praise of God and all of the things that are a part of the natural world. He lovingly calls to the reader’s attention the unusual images of nature.  The poet writes with awe for the beauty of the world and God’s creations.

Dividing his poem into two stanzas, the poet does not follow any set form for the poem.  He does follow  the rhyming pattern of every other line end word rhymes—cow-plough/swim-trim/and dim/him.

One of the most important literary devices used by Hopkins is alliteration. For example, he emphasizes the “c” sound in the second line: couple-color as a brinded cow. In the fourth line, he stresses the “f” sound: fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches wings.

His imagery is lovely with his alliterative words choices.  The reader can imagine the land with its possibilities of being “fold, fallow, and plough.”

The poem becomes Hopkins’ sermon to the “pied” things in life. The word pied means "freckled, dappled, or variegated." 

The first stanza illustrates the many unusually colored things in nature:

Dappled horses

Motley colored skies

Brindled colored cattle

Rose colored spots on the swimming trout

Chestnut falling open looking like hot embers of coal

Underside of the finches’ spotted wings

He further illustrates the different kinds of English landscapes separated into sections:

fold is an area for penning up sheep; fallow is a section left untouched; and plough is a tool used to turn over the dirt to plant seed.

The last image is built around the types of tools that are used by different types of craftsmen: gear, tackle, and trim.

The second stanza changes its emphasis to opposites. The poet uses the word counter. Things that are original, not heavy, or odd.  He calls to mind the aspects of life that are fickle or freckled [The poet makes a comment that he does not know how freckles come about.]

His opposites

Fast/unhurried; sugary/tart; bright/ dull;

He, [God] who has brought these things into existence, never changes.  His beauty stays the same.  Glory to God.

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: 

Praise him. 

The poem is a lovely tribute to the oddities that are found in the world. The poet stands in wonderment of the God’s beautiful world.