Pied Beauty: Summary

Glory be to God for dappled things— 
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; 
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; 
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; 
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough; 
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim. 
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.

Summary

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.

In the final five lines, Hopkins goes on to consider more closely the characteristics of these examples he has given, attaching moral qualities now to the concept of variety and diversity that he has elaborated thus far mostly in terms of physical characteristics. The poem becomes an apology for these unconventional or “strange” things, things that might not normally be valued or thought beautiful. They are all, he avers, creations of God, which, in their multiplicity, point always to the unity and permanence of His power and inspire us to “Praise Him.”

Choose an option and write an essay

1. Hopkins believes God should be praised and thanked for the natural world. Do you agree?

2. Comment closely on the  poem Pied Beauty, discussing how effectively the poet shows his admiration for nature.

3. Pied Beauty deals with both nature and religion. Do you agree?

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