What is Gerard Manley Hopkins praising in "Pied Beauty"?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gerard Manley Hopkins became a Roman Catholic priest.  Writing during the Victorian English period, his poetry was considered more modern than the other poets of this period. His uplifting spirit offered a different look at nature.   “Pied Beauty” honors God for his unusual creations of nature.  The poem is a hymn praising God.

Father Hopkins’s sermon to mottled entities begins with the glorification of the God. He applauds all of nature and especially spotted or multi-colored things. The poem written in two stanzas does not follow any set pattern. 

1st stanza

  • The poet thanks God for spotted things in nature. 
  • The many colored skies
  • The cow with darker spots or streaks
  • The trout with the rose colored spot on its gills
  • The chestnut
  • The finch
  • The various kinds of landscape
  • The types of tools used by the workmen

2nd stanza

Everything that is odd, unusual, and incongruous in the natural world

  • Things that are freckled, changeable
  • Opposities as sweet and sour
  • He who made these things---man should give him the praise.

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

 Praise him.

All of these wonderful oddities and always transforming parts of nature were “fathered” or created by God who is forever the same. The poet believes that everything whether it is plain or unusual----all of these things make up the world. Thanks be to God.

anjali989 | Student

In the poem, the narrator praises God for the variety of "dappled things" in nature, such as cattle, trout and fiinches. He also describes how falling chestnuts resemble coals bursting in a fire, because of the way in which the chestnuts' reddish-brown meat is exposed when the shells break against the ground.

The word "pied" in the title means spotted (or, if you prefer, dappled). This entire poem is in praise of things with spots, from trout to cows to the way the skies have spots of cloud or the fields, which are compared to a quilt: "Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow and plough".

The first six lines give examples of the pied things for which Manley is offering thanks; the second stanza (of four and one half lines) expands to thank the Lord for all of the things that might fit within this category. What I like about the second stanza is its ambiguity: is Manley telling all those things that are freckled, fickle, etc. to praise God, or is he praising God for having made them? The stanza reads well both ways, and I rather think that was on purpose.