Pied Beauty

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.
 

This poem,  Pied Beauty by  Gerard  Manley Hopkins, is well known and loved.   I want to take  two aspects of it that really help us to see God in different ways.

Firstly, let’s consider Hopkins’s delight and relish in the use of words; he was one of the finest of wordsmiths and if he didn’t find the word he was looking for, he made one up!  “Brinded”  for example is the archaic version of  brindled. And who else would have thought of using the word  “stipple”  (which I have just found out means the process of marking a surface with many small dots, a process  often used in painting)  and apply it to trout?   And it works.  We can see and enjoy our stippled trout swimming away.   Hopkins uses all our senses: we can practically smell the gorgeous roasted  chestnuts as they drop from the fire.

And then he goes into overdrive in the  sestet with  his list of antonyms as in “swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim”.  We can almost feel his enjoyment, his glee, his relish in the use of words, in the beauty of them. And he would be the first to  acknowledge that this luxuriant, febrile, fertile creativity is itself a wonderful gift from God, and a gift, which if well used, shows us something of the many faceted nature of  God.

Yet the second  aspect is apparent in  the last two lines when all the razzle dazzle stops, and we focus on the calm invariability of God’s goodness and truth,  on his mastery  and on his unchanging nature.  He is always there for us.  He is our father as well as the father of the  universe. It is as if Hopkins suddenly stops his engaging word play and turns around to come face to face with the eternal  and unchanging presence of God.    And the only possible reaction is to stop short  and to praise God.

Kate Price

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