A Poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
A Study Guide
Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...© 2010
Type of Work
......."Pied Beauty" is a lyric poem praising God for his variegated creation. The author, Gerard Manley Hopkins, called the poem a curtal sonnet, meaning a shortened or contracted sonnet. A curtal sonnet consists of eleven lines instead of the usual fourteen for the standard Shakespearean or Petrarchan sonnet. Besides being a lyric poem in the form of a curtal sonnet, "Pied Beauty" may also be classified as catalogue verse because it presents a thesis followed by a list of examples (catalogue) that support the thesis.
Composition and Publication
.......Hopkins completed "Pied Beauty" in 1877. The London firm of Humphrey S. Milford published it in 1918 in Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
.......The theme of the poem is this: Nature in its variety--including streaked, spotted, and multicolored skies, fields, nuts, fish, birds, and other animals--is a gift of God for which we all should be thankful. One may interpret this theme to include human beings, with their many personalities, moods, idiosyncrasies, occupations, cultures, languages, political systems, skin colors and other physical attributes, and so on.
.......The meter of "Pied Beauty" is sprung rhythm, a term coined by Hopkins to describe a metric format that permits an unlimited number of unstressed syllables in each line to accompany stressed syllables. A metric foot in sprung rhythm usually contains one to four syllables. Hopkins intended sprung rhythm to mimic the stresses occurring in ordinary English speech.
.......Hopkins begins and ends the poem with a call to praise God for the gifts He has given us. Between these calls, he presents two short lists and a comment about the beauty of God. The first list uses concrete and specific language (skies, the cow, trout, chestnuts, finches, and farm fields); the second list, abstract and general language (things counter, original, spare, strange, fickle, etc.). The comment notes that the beauty of God, unlike the beauty of creation, does not change. Thus, Hopkins structures the poem as follows:
1. A call to praise God for his gifts.Rhyme
.......The rhyme scheme of the poem is as follows:
Lines 1-6: ABCABCTone
.......The tone is exuberant and spirited. The poem is a song of joy.
to God, the speaker says, for giving the world spotted, streaked, and multicolored
things. Blue skies, for example, may display streaks of white or gray--or
the colors of the sunset. In this respect, skies are like cows, which may
be brown with streaks or patches of another color. And then there are the
speckled trout and the fallen chestnuts with open hulls that reveal kernels
with an intense color resembling the glow of burning coal. Consider also,
the speaker says, the multicolored wings of the finches and the farmland
with patches of green contrasting with plowed or fallow patches of brown.
And what of the variety of tools and kits and equipment that dapple the
workplace of men?
Figures of Speech
.......Following are examples of figures of speech in the poem.
Line 1:....Glory be to GodAnaphora
Lines 2 and 3: For
skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
Line 3: rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swimParadox
Line 9: things that are swift and slowSimile
Lines 2: skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow
.......The opening words of the poem paraphrase in English the Latin motto of the Jesuits: Ad majorem Dei gloriam (To the greater glory of God). Hopkins was a member of the Jesuits, an order of Roman Catholic priests with the official name of the Society of Jesus. The order was founded by the Spanish theologian Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). His Spanish name was San Ignacio de Loyola.
Study Questions and Writing Topics
1. Write a short poem about