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Pied Beauty by Gerald Manley Hopkins: Summary and Analysis

Pied Beauty is a curtal sonnet by Gerald Manley Hopkins published posthumously in 1918 though written
in 1877. Though most of the Victorian poets deal with the theme of frustration, anxiety, decay, loss of
human values and faith, Gerard Manley Hopkins is the only one poet who finds hope in God. So, human
faith and god's grandeur are the common themes of his writing.

In this short poem, Hopkins appreciates the strength of the god in the universe. All the things in the
universe contain the pied beauty. Sky does have the couple color, trout are spotted and chestnut does
have the multiple color. Different trades do have the different purpose and different instruments have
different tunes. In addition, the landscape is pieced, plotted, fold, follow and ploughed. Multiplicity and
pied beauty can be seen in the landscape and the things of this universe. Not a single thing resembles
with the other. Then pied beauty is the dominant feature of this universe and for this pied beauty he
gives glory to god because god is the only source or father of all these things. Taking this glory of God
into account, Hopkins asks mankind to praise him, then all the problems of the universe can be resolved
peacefully.

Hopkins has a different form. He says every poem must have inscape and should be in design. The
distinct design makes poem a poem. For that reason, he uses the rhythm as sprung rhythm. Sprung
rhythm is a poetic pattern resembling to general speech with each foot having one stressed syllable that
is followed by changing the number of unstressed syllables. Sprung rhythm does not follow the
traditional metrical pattern rather its pattern is the pattern of themes which means it carries the theme.
Here, pied beauty itself is the theme. Somewhere there is internal rhyme which is sprung rhythm and
brings the theme of the poem. The design of the poem corresponds to the design of the universe.

His curtal sonnet is an exceptional sonnet where he minimizes the traditional form of a sonnet by
reducing the eight lines in six and the six lines sestet into four and a half. Multiplicity is there in the
pattern, somewhere there is alliteration. The repetitions of the sounds in the poem through the words
like 'dappled', 'stipple', 'tackle', 'fickle', 'freckled', 'adazzle' etc. reinforces the theme of the poem by
intertwining the diverse things of the nature created by the god into a beautiful and comprehensible
whole.

The ending of the poem has juxtaposition. The vicissitude of his creations and their continuous flux in
nature is juxtaposed with the changeless nature of God. This provides a mild irony in the poem and also
surprises the readers. The speaker just wants all the people to praise the lord for his variety of creations.

The poem can be taken as a form of hymn of creation. The poet praises the variety and beautiful things
of the world which are fathered by the god. By praising the creation, he praised the almighty god. He
glorifies the infinite power of God to create the vicissitudes of things and also for the power to bring
uniformity despite the diversity.

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God's Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins: Summary and Critical Analysis

The sonnet God's Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins stresses the immanence of God. The whole
universe is an expression of God’s greatness, but man fails to recognize it. Though the soil is bare and
smeared with man’s toil, there is a constant renewal or natural beauty because God continues to 'brood'
over the world.

In this sonnet, Hopkins praises the magnificence and glory of God in the world, blending accurate
observation with lofty imagination. The world is filled with the greatness of God. God’s glory expresses
itself in two ways. Sometimes it flames out with sudden brightness when a gold foil is shaken. At other
times, the poet thinks of an olive press, with the oil oozing (flowing out) from the pressed fruit. It oozes
from every part of the press in a fine film and then the trickles gathers together to form a jar of oil. In the
same way, the grandeur of God is found everywhere, trickling from every simple thing in a created
universe and accumulating to form greatness. The poet wonders why people do not care about God’s
rod. People pursue their worldly activities without any thought of God’s will and without the fear of
god’s anger.

Generations of human beings have followed the same worldly path and have become so habituated to it
that they don’t know its uselessness. It has become monotonous due to lack of the divine will. The world
has been degraded and made ugly by commercial activity and by hard work aimed at worldly gains. The
world bears the marks of man’s dirt and gives out man’s bad smells. The beauty of nature is spoiled by
man’s industrial activity and the sweet smell of nature has been drowned in the bad smells that come
from machines. The earth is now bare, having lost all living beauty. Man is insensitive to this bareness.
Because of the shoes, he can’t feel whether the earth is soft or hard.

In spite of man’s activities tending to destroy the beauty of Nature, it is inexhaustible. At the bottom of
the world there is freshness. This freshness never disappears. When spring comes nature renews itself
and thus shows underlying freshness. And although the sun goes down the western sky and the earth is
plunged in darkness, the next day will dawn and the sun will be rising again in the eastern sky. Just as a
dove with its warm breast broods over its young ones in its nest, so the Holy Ghost broods protectively
over the world which is bent in sleep and forgetfulness.

The repetition of the words ‘have trod’ captures the mechanical forces in verse because of their heavy
accents. What is sometimes called the ‘daily grind’ is the repetitive thump in which the feet of
generation march on; and the ‘trod… trod… trod’ sets up the three beat rhythm of the next line:
‘seared… bleared… smeared! ‘Seared’ means ‘dried up’ or it can mean ‘rendered incapable of feeling’.
‘Bleared’ means ‘blurred with inflammation of the eyes’ and ‘smeared’ means ‘rubbed over with dirt’.
They suggest that there is no delicacy of feeling or perception in the world. The whole world has been
degraded and made ugly by commercial activity and by toil aimed at monetary gains.

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Spring and Fall by Gerard Manley Hopkins: Summary and Analysis

Spring and Fall by Gerard Manley Hopkins is a modern poem about philosophical definition of human
life. It is a dramatic meditative poem since it narrates an event, imagining a philosopher as a speaker in
conversation to a girl name Margaret. We find character, dialogue, and setting and plot as well in the
poem. The poem is about the reality of human existence that has been well introduced through its title
'Spring and Fall'.

In the poem, the speaker addresses to a girl, Margaret, who is crying at the fall of tree leaves. As a
philosopher, speaker asks Margaret not to grieve over goldengrove unleaving. The speaker believes that
the young girl, Margaret equally cares for leaves like the things of man. In her innocence, with fresh
thoughts, she worries for the falling leaves. Margaret as an innocent child, separation is a great loss for
her. She doesn't know the meaning of death. A child is out of knowledge of death, end, destruction, and
collapse. The speaker in the poem behaves as a philosopher. He is trying to persuade Margaret not to
weep, not to mourn, and not to spare sigh, when goldengroove is unleaving. For the experienced person,
"goldengrove unleaving" is a minor natural process. There is nothing to worry and lament over it. When
the human heart grows older, so many pains come and go away. For a young heart, it is intolerable to
tolerate separation and loss. The speaker of the poem has tried to read the mentality of a young child.
Very plainly, he says that it is all because of Margaret's childhood. Still Margaret is not fully developed
human being. She is left to cross many hurdles and obstacles in her life. Thus Margaret is as spring. As
she grows, she will take a journey towards fall. Then, only she will realize the absolute truth of the
human world and the meaning of fall.

Moving a step ahead, the speaker argues that as the heart grows older; such sorrows come and go away.
Though the narrator's tone towards the child is tender and sympathetic, he does not try to comfort her.
The philosophical argumentations are beyond the understanding of the young girl. The child is emotional
and ignorant regarding this loss, whereas the speaker is poetical, philosophical, and generalizing
something of a natural process which is really tough and vague to understand by an innocent girl. The
speaker is matured, but his technique of addressing to the child is colder. He asks many questions to her,
but when gets no result, then assumes answers and moves further. In real sense when the child grows
she can take a journey towards fall or left to cross many hurdles and obstacles in her life then only she
can realize the absolute truth of the human world. The speaker is unlike a teacher as he does not care for
age and level of knowledge of the child. In the poem, we find the contrast between innocence and
experienced. The speaker represents the experience, whereas the child represents the innocence.
Margaret has fresh thoughts and such thoughts are indifferent to the idea of death and destruction.
Similarly, the speaker represents fall and the child represents the spring.

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A summary of a classic Hopkins poem


‘Pied Beauty’ belongs to the middle period of the poetic career of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89),
that period when he had found his distinctive poetic voice but before he became plagued by depression
later in his short life. The poem reflects this: ‘Pied Beauty’ is written by a poet who is confident in his
style, and in his religious faith. Here are some thoughts on the poem, which might be considered some
notes towards an analysis of it.

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 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:

Praise him.

In summary, Hopkins’s poem is a celebration of ‘pied’ things and the beauty of pied things: that is, things
that are made up of two different colours, often containing black and white or dark colours with light
colours. These ‘dappled things’ exist thanks to God, says Hopkins: they all reflect his creation. Whether
it’s the ‘stipple’ (or freckled markings) on trout swimming in the water, or the wings of finches, or the
contrast of colours (such as the black-and-white of clouds) in the sky, these depictions of ‘couple-colour’
in the world of nature are to be celebrated.

And why should they be celebrated? Because of their mixture of light and dark, of different colours and
patterns? Partly. But it’s perhaps significant that many of the phenomena which Hopkins mentions –
trout swimming, the
Dappled Skywings of the (flying) finch, the changing appearance of the skies – are things in flux, which
are not the same, or in the same place, from one hour to the next. Even the land of ‘fold, fallow, and
plough’ is tilled, crops are planted, seeds are sown, things are cultivated: the world of ‘Pied Beauty’ is a
world that is forever changing. In another of his poems, Gerard Manley Hopkins describes nature as a
‘Heraclitean Fire’, and Heraclitus, among other things, argued that everything exists in a state of flux: you
cannot step into the same river twice, since the current of the river is always moving and changing. This
notion of change is made explicit in the poem’s penultimate line: God’s beauty is the only beauty that is
‘past [i.e. beyond] change’, but everything else is destined to alter. ‘Pied Beauty’ is, in the last analysis, a
poem about difference, and a celebration of difference – and not just between things but within the
same thing. The sky like a piebald cow brings together black and white in glorious contrast. The river that
trout swims in today is not the same river it swam in last week.

Hopkins conveys this sense of flux through utilising some of his trademark techniques, which are here
imbued with an additional significance in light of the poem’s theme: so his fondness for compound
words neatly captures this idea of two different things being joined in one: ‘couple-colour’, ‘rose-moles’,
‘chestnut-falls’, and ‘Fresh-firecoal’ (which is actually a triple compound, since ‘firecoal’ is itself a
compounding). The two words are different and yet brought together through hyphenation (the word
‘hyphen’, by the way, literally means ‘under one’, because two or more things are brought together as
one unit). Elsewhere, words rub up against each other, similar yet different: the sounds of words appear
to change, to be in constant flux. So ‘tackle’ turns to ‘fickle’ which quickly changes into ‘freckled’; even
the rhyme of ‘strange’ with ‘change’ points up the fact that things are rendered unfamiliar to us because
they alter. So, although Hopkins’s poem is, on the surface, simply a song of praise to ‘dappled things’, it is
also about the fast-paced movement of those things and the way that beauty is caught in a moment
here, a sudden glance there.

In terms of its form, ‘Pied Beauty’ is an unusual form of sonnet invented by Hopkins himself: the ‘curtal
sonnet’, comprising ten-and-a-half lines (since the final line is always much shorter than the other lines).
This form allows the simple message of that final line, and Hopkins’s contrast between the world of fickle
things and the unalterable world of God, to stand out and be more clearly heard. ‘Praise him.’

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An introduction to ‘God’s Grandeur’, the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem

In our pick of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s best poems, we included ‘God’s Grandeur’, a sonnet celebrating
‘the grandeur of God’. Hopkins was one of the greatest religious poets of the entire nineteenth century,
and this poem shows how he attained that reputation. Below is the poem, followed by a brief analysis of
some of its themes and linguistic features.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;


It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

In summary, Hopkins writes that the grandeur and greatness of God can be found in everything – a view
that is very much associated with the Romantic poets and their pantheistic view that there is divinity in
every rock, plant, tree, lake, or flower. But unlike the Romantics, Hopkins uses the sort of imagery we
wouldn’t necessarily expect to encounter when reading a poem praising God’s presence in nature: the
grandeur of God ‘will flame out’ or flare out, in sudden bursts of light and energy, ‘like shining from
shook foil’ – i.e. the way that thin sheet-metal shines when it

Gerard Manley Hopkinscatches the light (though ‘foil’ also glints with its secondary meaning, namely a
thin metal sword used in fencing). Given that God’s grandeur ‘gathers to a greatness’, like the ooze of
crushed olives used to make oil, why do so many people not heed, or listen to, God? Work seems to have
replaced worship: generations of men have worked (‘trod’, repeated three times to suggest the
monotony of the daily grind), and this act of toiling and tilling the land seems almost to have erased the
very presence of God’s greatness in the land. We’ve lost our earthy connection with nature, too: we no
longer feel the soil between our feet, since we wear shoes!

The poem is a sonnet, and as is the way with Petrarchan or Italian sonnets (of which ‘God’s Grandeur’ is
one), at this point there is a volta or ‘turn’ – that is, a change in the argument being put forward. This is
often signalled by the word ‘But’ or ‘Yet’ at the head of the ninth line; here we have the phrase, ‘And for
all this’. Despite man’s best efforts to lose touch with divine nature, nature keeps on giving: things are
still fresh and alive, if you dig deep enough. Tomorrow, the poem concludes, is a new day: although the
light fades in the west every night, morning comes, because the Holy Ghost (related to God and Jesus
Christ in the Holy Trinity, of course) broods over the world (A. E. Housman offers a somewhat less
sanguine view of the sunset). So much for what the poem is saying.

But, as always with Gerard Manley Hopkins, the joy is in how he chooses to say it. Take that image of the
grandeur of God – an abstract idea, you would have thought – being likened to something as vivid and
visual as light shining from ‘shook foil’ (not shaken foil, you’ll note: the solecism is important in
conveying the quick immediacy of the light’s movement). Or the sheer braveness (or bravado?) of having
a line as dully repetitive as ‘Generations have trod, have trod, have trod’ (compare Shakespeare’s line
from King Lear, ‘Never, never, never, never, never’). Throughout the poem, Hopkins does things which a
poet less adept or possessed with genius (and the word seems justified when discussing such a poet as
Hopkins) would render in a crass or clumsy way. Here, though, the poem succeeds. It is one of the
Victorian era’s greatest religious poems – though, as with many of Hopkins’s poems, it only first saw
publication in 1918, nearly thirty years after his death.

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Spring and Fall

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

to a young child

Márgarét, áre you gríeving

Over Goldengrove unleaving?

Leáves, like the things of man, you

With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

Ah! ás the heart grows older

It will come to such sights colder

By and by, nor spare a sigh

Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;

And yet you will weep and know why.

Now no matter, child, the name:

Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.

Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed

What heart heard of, ghost guessed:


It ís the blight man was born for,

It is Margaret you mourn for.

Synopsis: The speaker observes, imagines, remembers, or actually addresses a young girl who is sad to
see leaves falling off trees. He tells her that as she grows older, she will no longer care for falling leaves
but will still “weep and know why.” The underlying reason will be the same; it was always “Margaret
[she] mourn[ed] for.”

Some contested or open questions:

1) What does the last line mean? Perhaps the adult Margaret mourns because she sees that her heart
has hardened and she no longer mourns the falling leaves. Or perhaps she was sorrowful as a child for a
reason that she only understands later: the autumn leaves were evidence of mortality, and so she has
always wept for the same cause, her own fragility and death.

2) Who and where is the speaker? Is he (or she) talking to the little girl? To the adult Margaret? Just to
us, and Margaret is a memory or fantasy? Is the speaker the ghost in line 13? Could the speaker be the
older Margaret?

Form: With 15 rhymed lines, this is like a sonnet in which one pivotal couplet has been turned into a
tercet. But it is an unusual sonnet because Hopkins imitates old English poetry. Two clues are the
alliteration and the invented words with Anglo-Saxon ring, like “wanwood leafmeal.” More pervasively,
Hopkins uses “sprung rhythms”–the form that is common to Anglo-Saxon poetry, nursery rhymes, and
rap. In conventional English verse since the Renaissance, the lines have regular numbers of syllables, but
the number and pattern of stresses is varied. In sprung rhythms, on the other hand, each line has the
same number of stresses and takes the same amount of time to speak, but the number of syllables is
varied. (E.g., each line of this nursery rhyme consumes the same amount of time and has three accented
beats: “Hickory dickory dock / The mouse ran up the clock / The clock struck one / And down he run /
Hickory dickory dock”). Hopkins starts this poem with couplets of one sentence each that alternate
regularly between seven and eight syllables, but then he moves to pure sprung rhythm at the end.

Specific notes:

“gríeving / Over”: the usual preposition would be “for,” but “over” is appropriate for grief over a dead
body, as at a wake.
“unleaving”: an Anglo-Saxonish coinage, and also a pun. The trees are unleaving as a person undresses–
shedding their leaves. Also, the Goldengrove is not leaving: it is unchanging. Does that mean that the
essence of the wood remains even as the leaves fall? Or that the girl’s sad experience in Goldengrove is
permanent?

Line 3-4, in paraphrase: Because you are young and naive, you can care for leaves and the “things of
man.”

“Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie”: I read this as: “even though years of leaves have piled up as
dirt (leafmeal).” The implied comparison is to generations of people piling up as dead. I have seen notes,
however, in which “leafmeal” is read more as verb: a tree “leafs” by losing its leaves. “Wan” seems to
mean “pale,” which could be odd for an autumn wood, but áwannian is Anglo-Saxon for “to become livid
or black.” And ámeallod is “to be emptied out.”

“And yet you will weep and know why”: But the question is exactly why will she weep. For her growing
callousness? For her mortality?

“Sórrow’s spríngs are the same”: An important pun. “Springs” means origins, and the origins of her
sorrow are loss and death. “Springs” are also the antidotes to autumns, as implied by the title. Margaret
is in the springtime of her life. The trees will “leaf” again and new Margarets will be born. (Alexandra
Keegan sees a reference to the Book of Job: “For sorrow cometh not forth from the dust, Nor from the
ground springeth up misery.”)

“Nor mouth had …” Now the rhythm and syntax are getting tangled, agitated, difficult, reflecting the
speaker’s state of mind. This sentence could be paraphrased as: “The heart and spirit already guessed
the truth that was not yet explicit in the child’s mind or speech.” But Hopkins turns that idea upside-
down and begins with the negatives, “Nor … no nor …”

“Ghost” could mean “spirit,” in contrast to reason or articulate thought. (Hopkins, a Catholic priest,
would use “ghost” as in the phrase “Holy Ghost.”) But the word also makes one wonder about the
speaker. He or she is a ghostly presence observing the little girl. In fact, the speaker could be Margaret,
much later in life or after death.

“The blight man was born for”: vulnerability to loss? Growing callousness? Dying like a falling leaf?