Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...©
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
Composition and Publication
completed "Pied Beauty" in 1877. The London firm of Humphrey S. Milford
published it in 1918 in Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
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.
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.
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
1. A call to praise
God for his gifts.
2. A list of gifts in specific
3. A list of gifts in abstract
4. A comment about the immutable
beauty of God.
5. A call to praise God.
rhyme scheme of the poem is as follows:
Lines 1-6: ABCABC
Lines 7-10: DBDC
Line 11: C
tone is exuberant and spirited. The poem is a song of joy.
of the Poem
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?
are many varieties of odd and strange things in the world--some of them
original, one of a kind. The qualities of these fickle things may be freckled
with opposites. Swiftness may be freckled with slowness, sweetness with
sourness, brightness with dimness.
He who brings forth dappled things is not Himself dappled. He is changeless,
ever the same.
Text and Notes
Glory be to God for dappled1
For skies of couple-colour2
as a brinded3
all in stipple5
upon trout that swim;
and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
trades, their gear and tackle and trim.7
All things counter, original,
Whatever is fickle,
freckled (who knows how?)
swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
whose beauty is past change:
Spotted, speckled, pied; multicolored.
Brindled; having a brownish yellow or gray coat with spots or streaks of
a darker color.
Reddish spots on the skin.
Pattern of spots.
. . . falls: Fallen chestnuts with shells that opened. The exposed
nuts resemble glowing coals.
are examples of figures of speech in the poem.
be to God
as a brinded cow
their gear and tackle and trim
Lines 2 and 3: For
skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Line 3: rose-moles
all in stipple upon trout that swim
Comparison of the spots
on a speckled trout to moles
Line 4: Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls
Comparison of chestnut
kernels to burning coals
Line 10: suckled in a creed
Comparison of creed
to a mother nursing her child
Line 9: things that
are swift and slow
that are sweet and sour
that are dazzling and dim
Lines 2: skies of
couple-colour as a brinded cow
Comparison of skies to
The Opening Words
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.
Questions and Writing Topics
1. Write a short poem about
2. Hopkins writes in line
9 about things with opposite qualities. What opposite qualities do you
3. Identify examples of
neologisms in the poem. If you do not know what a neologism is, first look
up the word in a dictionary, then answer the question.
4. Another poem about the
beauty of nature is "I Wandered Lonely as
a Cloud," by William Wordsworth. Write an essay comparing and contrasting