Pied Beauty is a religious poem. Hopkins celebrates here the glory of God. He offers his deep sense of gratitude to Him for endowing the universe with pied beauty-with variegated shades and colours, with varied and antithetical objects, all around the world.
The term “pied beauty” literally means variegated beauty. Beauties in nature are marked with diverse colours and shades. These are wonderfully described in the first part of the poem. The sky with its blend of blue and brown, the dots of rosy redness on the body of the trout, chestnut having the colour of glowing fire coal, all these present a delightful motley of colours.
But the poem is no more enumeration of God’s creation. This is much more. Hopkins finds the glory of God manifested in these variegated and rare things of beauty. He praises Him for creating all such beautiful and colourful things, rare and original matters. Indeed, the essence of the poem lies in the vigorous glorification of the pied beauty of God’s creation and here. is struck the significance of the title of the poem, Pied Beauty.
The central thought of the poem is also struck in this glorification of God. Glory be to God, who ‘fathers-forth’ all things and whose beauty is ‘past change’. God’s glory is manifested in His creation of all delightful, attractive and variegated things. He must be praised for His mighty, varied and colourful creation. Hopkins’s praise is all unqualified :
“Glory be to God for dappled things
For skies of couple-colour, as a brinded cow…
The poem is peculiarly modern in its note. Modern poetry, like modern painting, is always teaching how to find beauty where one might easily fail to notice it. The manifestation of God’s beauty in changing forms of nature with their splendid colour-etfects is the subject matter of the poem. Beauties in nature are described as the instruments of the glories of God for which He must be praised. So far as the first part of the poem is concerned, Hopkins is essentially Keatsian. Variegated beauties in nature are feeding the artist’s senses. But in the last five lines one notices Wordsworthian calm and meditation in him. The poet feels strongly the eternal glory of God. This part of the poem is essentially a devotional lyric and takes one’s mind back to the poems of Vaughan, Herbert, or the hymns of Milton.
The poem also supplies the key to Hopkins’s mode of enjoyment of natural beauties. There are many lovely things, and for all these beauties, man should proclaim the glory of God whose permanent beauty manifests itself in all variegated and beautiful objects. The poem is Keatsian in its sensuous endowments, although it is ultimately a devotional song.
Hopkins may be called a pioneer in metre and rhythm. The eighth line beginning with ‘Whatever is fickle …’ strikes the note of the revival of alliterative style of Langland and Skelton. “Swift’, ‘slow’, ‘sweet’, ‘sour’, ‘a dazzle’, ‘dim’, ‘tackle and trim’ are not only pleasing to the ear but also full of meaning. If one reads aloud the last five lines of the poem, he or she can catch the force of their rhythm. No regular rhyme scheme in the verse is noted, yet in its metrical pattern and vigorous rhythm, the poem contains something of the eccentricity of Browning. Hopkins himself has remarked, “No doubt my poetry errs on the side of
The effect of verse on thought and expression, according to Hopkins, is concentration. He means not merely tersensess, definiteness, emphasis, but rather the vividness of idea. His expression gathers force, which is born of the omission of relatives and the compression of phrases, and the formation of compounds. ‘Couple-colour’ and ‘fathers-forth’, ‘chestnut-falls’ are the typical examples of his compounds. The adjective ‘fresh-
firecoal’ illustrates not only the poet’s sensuousness and vivid idea but also terse and compact expression.
In this poem, Hopkins worthily follows the glorious tradition of word-painting, borne by Spenser, Keats, Tennyson and Rossetti. Landscape, with its ‘fold, fallow and plough’, a falling chestnut, having the glow of the brightly burning coal, the playful trout, with rose moles, and the sky with the colour of a branded cow are all precisely drawn but brilliant in pictorial effects.
Hopkins is an original poet, with an outstanding genius as an imagist, versifier and Christian devotee. Pied Beauty is, too, an original poem from an original poet.