Explore how Gerard Manley Hopkins has conveyed his message of beauty in "Pied Beauty."

1 Answer

booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Hopkins masterfully uses figurative language to convey imagery that leads to the reader's appreciation of the "mental pictures" the poet is attempting to convey.

In the poem's title, "Pied" indicates the kind of "beauty" that Hopkins will praise—multi-colored things, and is defined as...

...having patches of two or more colors, as various birds and other animals:

The poem's first phrase grabs the reader with a familiar religious line, "Glory be to God." This sets the tone for the rest of the poem by praising all of the images Hopkins will present in "Pied Beauty."

Another central focus of the poem introduced in the first line is diversity, specifically to sensory details that appeal to one's sight, by using the word "dappled," which is defined as...

...having spots of a different shade, tone, or color from the background; mottled. 

"Dappled" means things that do not conform in color to a background: they stand out. Hopkins sees patterns of color, each divergent from its surroundings. He describes the colors of the sky...the colors are presented in a variety of hues or shades.

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow...

He compares the skies (using a simile) to a "brindled" cow (here referred to as "brinded"), meaning...

...gray or tawny with darker streaks or spots.

...highlighting multiple colors or shades. Hopkins lists the many things in nature that catch his eye.

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim...

Hopkins describes role-colored "moles" or spots in the pattern of "stipple"—an artistic method using "dots or small touches." In essence, nature is art. Next are the colors of autumn trees: this image is brilliantly presented to clearly describe the color change in leaves as the colder weather arrives; and he couples this image with the colors of birds' wings:

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings...

The poet also describes the land as it is being farmed or left to grow wild. (It is noted by one source that the land takes on this appearance as man uses it: "man's intervention in the natural landscape.") As the ground is plowed ("ploughed"), the turned earth is one color. If it is fallow—not being seeded—all that grows are weeds or wild flowers, thus presenting a different color. ("Fold" refers to the pasture where sheep graze, a third color.) In these colors and patterns, Hopkins seems to liken the earth to a quilt, with a metaphor:

Landscape plotted and pieced...

The poem concentrates a great deal on nature, but also draws attention to the appearance of men in various trades, and how they look in am array of clothes and tools:

...gear and tackle and trim.


In the second stanza, Hopkins becomes more general, listing the ways things are different:

...counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled...

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim...

Then, the last two lines turn our attention back to God, where Hopkins began. He notes that God is the creator of all these things, and His beauty is beyond change. The poet reminds us, in light of all the beauties of nature, that God should be praised.

As a side note, Hopkins particularly uses alliteration to catch our ear:

Glory...God; couple-colour; Fresh-firecoal, falls, finches; plotted, pieced; fold, fallow; and, trades, tackle, trim.

The repetition of these sounds appeals to our auditory sense, drawing our attention to his words in yet another way, and giving the poem a musical sound.