8 October 2012
Main Idea of “Pied Beauty”
The poem opens with an offering: “Glory be to God for dappled things.” (l. 1). In the next five lines, Hopkins elaborates with examples of what things he means to include under this rubric of “dappled.” He includes the mottled white and blue colors of the sky, the “brinded” (l. 2) hide of a cow, and the patches of contrasting color on a trout. The chestnuts offer a slightly more complex image: When they fall they open to reveal the meaty interior normally concealed by the hard shell; they are compared to the coals in a fire, black on the outside and glowing within. The wings of finches are multicolored, as is a patchwork of farmland in which sections look different according to whether they are planted and green, fallow, or freshly plowed. The final example is of the “trades” (l. 6) and activities of man, with their rich diversity of materials and equipment.
In the final five lines, Hopkins goes on to consider more closely the characteristics of these examples he has given, attaching moral qualities now to the concept of variety and diversity that he has elaborated thus far mostly in terms of physical characteristics. The poem becomes an apology for these unconventional or “strange” (l. 7) things, things that might not normally be valued or thought beautiful. They are all creations of God, which, in their multiplicity, point always to the unity and permanence of His power and inspire us to “Praise Him.” (l. 10).