The poet says in this poem, that we should be thankful to God for all the multi-coloured things that he has given us – things that are freckled, spotted, dappled and chequered. They make life colourful and are proof of God’s infinite creativity.
The blue and white sky, the double coloured cow, the rainbow trout with flashing spots of pink, green and silver are all things that have pied beauty. The chestnut too is beautiful, the way the dark outer shell opens and reveals the red kernel inside as it fall from a height. There is more colour around us; the wings of a finch, and the farms divided into little plots by farmers, some green with crops, some brown where the harvest is over.
In the midst of all this variety, shines one immutable truth, that God is never changing, He is steadfast and permanent and for that we have to “Praise Him”
The main subject of the poem is admiration for the vastness and variety of God’s creation. Though God himself has created so many diverse things, all beautiful, He is permanent, steadfast and never changing. For this, we have to praise him.
The purpose of the poem is to praise the immense creativity of God who remains unchanging and steadfast even though the world He has created ebbs and flows all the time. God has filled the world with beautiful things to delight us but he remains apart from all that.
As a Catholic priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins was constantly trying to resolve the conflict in his being a priest (who was not moved by beauty) and a poet (who appreciated the beauty of nature that was all around him).
Here in Pied Beauty, He thanks God for filling the world around him with colour and beautiful forms. Everywhere he looks he finds pied beauty – skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim ; finches’ wings. Within the variety, the poet is aware of the unity and permanence of God. Things change on nature, but God is immutable.
Technique / Craftsmanship
Hopkins was one of the earliest of the Moderns in his experiments with language. He used commonplace words in unusual ways creating his own compound words and verb forms. He used words from Old English and Welsh and gives them a meaning that is his own. He also used punctuations in unusual ways. Hopkins used what he called “sprung rhythm”, a rhythmic structure that had its roots in Anglo- Saxon poetry.
Pied Beauty is a curtal sonnet, a sonnet which does not follow the traditional 14 line pattern. Hopkins condensed this sonnet into a brief ten and a half lines. The octave is here 6 lines and the sestet, four and a half. Yet the final effect is one of coherence and unity.
The vigour of Hopkins poetry comes from his use of regular words in unusual ways and words he created when he did not have a word that would convey his meaning precisely. He often used words in their archaic forms. The compound words like couple-colour, Fresh-firecoal, chestnut-falls in Pied Beauty take on a rich colour and meaning lacking in their equivalents.
Pied Beauty is a “ hymn to Creation”. It provides proof why we should be thankful to God and praise him. He has filled the earth with beautiful dappled things for our delight – things like skies of couple-colour, rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim.
The image of the falling chestnut revealing inner ‘moral’ core or its kernel tells us that everything that God creates has a value apart from the beautiful exterior.
Throughout the poem, there is a sense of movement that is sometimes fast:
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
And sometimes jerky: With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
Sprung rhythm produces rich aural patterns that have been much appreciated by later poets.
Pied Beauty is sprinkled with alliterative sounds:
• Line 1: “Glory”, “God”
• Line 2: “Couple-colour” and “cow”
• Line 4: “Fresh-firecoal”, “falls” and “finches'”
• Line 5: “Plotted,” “pieced,” and “plough”; “fold” and “fallow”
• Line 6: “Trades,” “tackle,” and “trim”
• Line 7: “Spare” and “strange”
• Line 8: “Fickle” and “freckled”
Alliteration adds to the sense of movement and rhythm and is a powerful tool in hands of a poet.
Figures of Speech
The final line has a full metaphor, “fathers-forth” where Gods is considered a father and his creations are all his children. This concept of God being a loving father to his children is common in Christian theology.
Fresh fire-coal chestnut is another metaphor where a falling chestnut is compared to a burning ember that glows red as it falls.