In the poem "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins, please explain the line "Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings?"

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Glory be to God for dappled things –

Gerald Manley Hopkins wrote “Pied Beauty” to celebrate God’s work in the natural world. Hopkins was a Catholic priest, who loved nature; however, it was the quirky part of the environment, not the orderly state of nature, in which he delighted.

The poem’s narration comes from someone who is familiar with religion. The narrator also looks at nature as though he is a biologist.  

This poem has no regular form. On the other hand, the poem follows a rather complicated rhyme scheme. The rhyme scheme follows this pattern: ABCABC DBEDE.   Hopkins wrote this poem in the style of a hymn, praising nature.

Everyone notices the beautiful, ever changing aspects of nature. That was not enough for this poet. He examines the uncommon and rare aspects of nature: all things that are flecked, variegated, or mottled. He wanted the reader to pay attention to those things that were “pied.”

In the first stanza, the speaker says we should glorify God because he has filled the world with spotted, freckled, checkered, and speckled things.

The speaker goes on to give examples that are multicolored:

  • The sky with its variegated colors
  • The brindled spotted cow
  •  Random patterns of red scales on the trout
  • The chestnuts on the ground that look like red coals in a fire
  • The finches [birds] with multiple colors on their wings
  • The beautiful land that has been plowed but unplanted
  • All the equipment that represents the tasks that men undertake

In the second stanza, Hopkins elaborates on his list of items for which God should be praised.  He does not list specific objects; instead, the poet uses adjectives to describe qualities of things in nature. To add to the rhythm and to emphasize his vocabulary choices, the speaker employs alliteration:

“With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim…”

The list is characterized by things that are the opposite of normal; these things are original. They are “spare” and few in number. Man should be thankful for the oddities in nature. He also repeats the idea of the “pied” items in nature that change. For example, the fawn with baby spots will lose the spots as he matures.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

Returning to the basic idea of the poem, the speaker says that God is the "father" of all these beautiful entities.  Therefore, God’s beauty never changes. God remains the same even as the world he created constantly shifts and flows. The end of the poem circles back to the beginning of the poem and the idea of praise and glory.

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anjali989 | Student

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.

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 nut-ology.
  • When they are on a tree, chestnuts are covered by a spiky, light-green covering, but the nuts themselves are reddish-brown. 
  • 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. 
  • The speaker focuses only on the finches' wings – a sign of his great attention to detail.

hope it helps. ...:D!

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