Victorian poet and Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins was noted for his focus on both religious and natural subjects, often intertwining the two. His sonnet “Pied Beauty” (published 29 years after his death) is just one example of Hopkins’ masterful ability to connect the beauty of nature with the wonder of God.
The poem begins with a clear call to worship (“Glory be to God”) before taking readers through vivid images of creation. As the title suggests, these images -- “skies of couple-colour” and “fresh-firecoal chesnut” -- stitch together to convey the diverse and changing beauty of God’s creation, much like the patches of a quilt.
As we weave through the images, caught up in the alliteration and sprung rhythm of Hopkins’ verse, we can feel the wonder and excitement of God’s creation building until the poem reaches its short yet powerful final line. Indeed, as we look back at the dappled beauty of the world Hopkins describes, what can we do but “praise him”?
By Gerard Manley Hopkins
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 all trades, 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: