Please explain the each line of the first stanza of "Pied Beauty" by Hopkins with an understanding of sprung rhythm.

Gerard Manley Hopkins coined the term "sprung rhythm" to describe a meter where each foot consists of one stressed syllable followed by one or more unstressed syllables. It is meant to capture more typical speech patterns than other, regular meters. As a result, the first six lines of "Pied Beauty" offer either three or four feet each, with varying numbers of syllables per foot.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Sprung rhythm is a meter where each foot can have a varying number of syllables, with the stress on the first syllable which is followed by one or more unstressed syllables. Typically, each foot has between one and four syllables. Sprung rhythm was actually invented by Hopkins himself in order...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Sprung rhythm is a meter where each foot can have a varying number of syllables, with the stress on the first syllable which is followed by one or more unstressed syllables. Typically, each foot has between one and four syllables. Sprung rhythm was actually invented by Hopkins himself in order to reflect more regular speech patterns in English and avoid the monotony of more regular rhythms.

A good place to begin to scan a poem is to focus on the polysyllabic words (with more than one syllable); we can say them aloud to figure out where the stress goes in each one. Let's look at the first line: Glory and dappled both have two syllables, and start with a stressed syllable (for example, we say GLOry and not gloRY). If you read the line aloud, emphasizing those stressed syllables, you can probably get a better sense of what other word(s) might be stressed as well:

Glo ry be to | God for | dap pled things

I think we sort of naturally emphasize the word God because "to" and "for" which precede and follow it aren't really significant enough to emphasize. So, this line has three feet, which I've divided from one another with a "|" symbol. I will continue with this same process for the remainder of the lines in the first stanza:

For skies of | cou ple | co lour as a | brin ded cow
For rose moles all in | stip ple u pon | trout that swim
Fresh fire coal | chest nut falls | fin ches wings
Land scape | plot ted and | pieced fold | fal low and plough
And all trades their | gear and | ta ckle and trim

Again, I went through and marked all of the stressed syllables in the polysyllabic words and then repeatedly spoke in line aloud to see where I naturally placed other rhetorical stresses. Finally, I divided the feet from one another with the "|" symbol.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team