Consider Hopkins’ “Pied Beauty’ as a Religious or Devotional Poem

Hopkins’s poetry bears an intense religious ardor, which finds its natural outlet in the most daring verbal and intellectual skill. He keeps his form and emotion under strict discipline, naturally imbibed through his religious training. His spiritual conflicts are beautifully expressed in the modern Tantalus (referred to in Greek mythology) who knows no peace because his spiritual thirst has not been quenched. The impact of the sensual world of feelings upon his spiritual sensibility seems to keep the poet confined within an order of ideas. He interprets the world with all its freeness, glory and celestial gleam in a religious spirit and conveys to man the message of God whose bounty of beauty is past all changes. Hopkins poetry carries the unique message of God to a man in an age of unrest and confusion, and this is the staple food of his religious poetry.

Hopkins wrote the present poem Pied Beauty during 1877-78, immediately after he had become a Jesuit priest. The poem, like another poem of the period, “Starlight Night“, is deeply imbued with the unalloyed religious sentiment of a true devotee. A sacramental emphasis on the greatness of God runs all throughout the poem. The poem echoes the poet’s total faith in the carnation of God all around this very earth.

The poet praises God for the pied beauty with which He has filled the universe. “Glory be to God”, the mighty maker of all dappled and rare things. A man should, therefore, turn to God, who is the Creator of all things of the Universe. He is all beautiful, and his beauty will never die. Man is to worship God, who is beauty incarnate. He should, therefore, sing hymns of glory to God alone.

In fact, Hopkins finds the glory of God manifested in His various rich and colorful gifts to mankind. Nature has her simple and elemental beauties. Even in such primitive things of nature as the skies, birds, pretty chestnuts, we find the strange contrast of colours, created by God. This is elaborated with religious enthusiasm.

The landscape, with its fold of sheep and its peasants at work in the fields, is beautiful to look at. God has blessed humanity with all antithetical things-swift and slow, sweet and sour, bright and dim. All things come from Him. He is the mighty creator of all things ‘counter, original, spare, strange’. His glory comes out in the pied beauty of the whole universe.

And God’s beauty remains forever Man should sing His glories. It is God alone who creates beauty. It is God alone whom man should, therefore, glorify.

Pied Beauty is regarded as a characteristic piece of Hopkins’s religious poetry. It brings out clearly his deep faith in God and in all His mighty creations. Hopkins’s devotion to God comes out in every line of this poem, as heard in the quoted lines below:

All things counter, original, spare, strange
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how ?)
With soft, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change
Praise him.