Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Pied Beauty 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;        5
    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:        10
                  Praise him.

                                                                                                           Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89)

There are so many poems by Hopkins I could leap on and call 'one of my favourites'. I went looking for Harry the Ploughman, found The Windhover and Spring, and then this. There are more - but this is a good poem for me today. 

I think Pied Beauty was the first Hopkins poem I learnt by heart - back at university when my friend Sandra and I were in love with this poet. We loved loved loved the way the language and the rhythms made their own way sprung from old words and old rhythms. We loved the way the words tasted in our mouths. We loved the celebration of movement and work and bodies. We loved the light in the poems (who can forget the 'shook foil'?), and the joy and the beauty. 

A couple of years after that, when the time was right (out for a walk - a lake - some trees), I said the words of Pied Beauty out loud to my then boyfriend (it is, by the way, 'a curtal sonnet with sprung paeonic rhythm'.) To me, the poem said everything about, well, everything. 

So this is a good one to choose, because the boyfriend and I have just celebrated 23 years married, 30 years since we met. 

I also have another connection with Hopkins. The supervisor for my MA in Creative Writing was Peter Whiteford (Victoria University) who is an expert on the poet. I spent hours in Peter's company working through my draft novel The Blue - a great working relationship that gave so much to the novel, not least because his love for Hopkins meant we started from the same place somehow. 

For more Tuesday Poem delights - click on the quill in my sidebar. Orchid Tierney is this week's editor at the hub and there are many poets in the sidebar ...


Penal-Colony said...

How can one go astray with Hopkins?

The worst part of this faith he had was also its best part: it made him write the kinds of poems he stopped writing altogether.

lillyanne said...

Oh Mary, how funny - I posted this last July! And love it as much as you do, so it's great to see it having another airing as a Tuesday Poem.

Claire G said...

It's impossible to tire of this poem: the light plays on a different part of it with each reading.

Helen Lowe said...

As a another Hopkins lover, this is one of my favourites too, if not 'the" favourite of his works.

Jennifer Compton said...

wonderful poem but i haven't read hopkins for years - dunno why - i love felix randal - the horses bright battering sandal - and windhover of course - and this one

btw mary seems to be a problem with my blog - i posted my poem lat on tuesday and it is not on the sidebar! help!

Mary McCallum said...

Thanks everyone - interesting comment, John, would like to know more...

Belinda, now I remember Pied Beauty on your blog... good choice!

After posting this, I had two conversations with friends about God and spiritual belief - both springing from GMH's poem. Too complicated to go into here, but satisfying and unexpected. Where poems can take you ... (God doesn't usually pop up in my daily conversations.)

Jen, I'll email you... it's a feed problem and often rectifies itself, but I'll see what I can do.

Unknown said...

Mary, how strange! Just last week I came across half of this poem (the left half) printed in felt-tip pen on a large sheet of poster paper, stashed in a box from 5th Form days. My friend Jan has the right half. We loved the poem so much when we studied it that this was the best way we could find to share it - and now, thanks to your Tuesday poem, I can read the other half once more.

Mary McCallum said...

Anne, that's such a lovely story. Pied Beauty in felt-tip on poster paper and cut in two like those hearts best friends share. Very cool.

Catherine said...

I've always loved this one - Hopkins was one of the poets we "did" in high school, I bought his complete works then and still have it.