In the poem "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins, in what ways does the poet makes his views on the beauty of the world around him vivid and unusual?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a devout Jesuit priest.  Writing during the Victorian age, Hopkins was not interested in the accolades that great poets receive. During his lifetime, his poetry was not published.  It was not until thirty years later that the public was able to read his beautiful nature poems.  “Pied Beauty” stands out as tribute to the uncommon aspects of nature. 

This poem was written as a hymn using the Psalms as its source.  It follows no particular form in its two stanzas: the first has six lines and the second has five. It has an unusual rhyme scheme: ABCABC DBEDE. No regular meter is used.  

The poem’s setting is the natural world. God’s work finds its way into the English countryside where the land is farmed. This is the view that Hopkins uses as his guide. The tone expresses love, awe, and wonder at the beauty of an unusual part of nature.

Featuring clever word choice which details the beauty of pied things in nature, the poem succeeds with both visual and auditory images.  In addition, the poet’s use of alliteration adds to the auditory experience.  Almost every line employs the repetition of a consonant:

Couple-coloured cow

Fresh-firecoalchestnut-falls; finches' wings; (What a wonderful example of alliteration!)

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

The poet uses his vocabulary selections to create both the picture and sounds which he loves in nature.

1st stanza

In his first line, the poet defines pied: dappled things or items with spots. He praises God for his clever creations of these interesting objects:

A simile which compares the speckled sky to a spotted cow

The rose colored scales mottled on the swimming trout

A freshly fallen chestnut that opens and looks like charcoal ember on fire

The dabbed colors on the finches’ wings

The countryside that has been worked by planning and piercing:  using it, leaving it alone, or preparing it for planting

All the workers and their accoutrements

2nd stanza

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him.

The poet praises all things that are unusual, unique, isolated, and odd

He praises those facets of nature that are changeable and spotted by nature (no one knows how it occurs)

He draws attention to the opposites—fleet and unhurried; saccharine and acrid; glittery and blurry

The poet also chooses an ingenious way of ascribing God’s role in these wonderful parts of nature:

  • He who fathers-forth (God) never changes
  • Honor him

This lovely poem praises God. Hopkins is not satisfied to present the normal, everyday beauty of the world; but rather, he glorifies the oddities. He begins and ends the poem with a tribute to God who made everything even the beautiful pied parts. In the poem, it appears that the poet only honors nature; on the other hand, in the first stanza, he points out that nature needs man to care for the landscape.