“Pied Beauty” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

I’m not sure. This might have been the first poem I ever loved. And it was a Catholic poem, 40 years before I became a Catholic. William Merriss was the English teacher of all English teachers at my junior high school, and he, though probably not a Catholic (I don’t know) taught me Gerard Manley Hopkins, a poet and, it turns out, a Jesuit. God bless Mr. Merriss.

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.

  • Maria

    Perfection. I LOVE Hopkins. Of course, you must know Hound of Heaven. Oh. Off to work so no time. Your daughter was in my prayers at Easter Mass.

  • Webster Bull

    And you are in my prayers, Maria! So happy to see you writing "Off to work"!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12442813565745123497 MUJERLATINA

    Our Jesuit priest Father Joe Burke used to quote from 'The Hound of Heaven' at each Mass while I was a student at Duke University. How apropos Webster, after your recent trip to North Carolina and Marian's faith journey which began there. I always used to tell people that 'North Carolina is where, for me, God Epiphanized.'@ Maria: so delighted you are 'work bound.' Bless you.Pax Christi.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Webster, Thanks for reminding me of Pied Beauty; it is one of my favorites, too … I had a great 7th grade English teacher who "made" us memorize poems: IF by Rudyard Kipling and Polonius' advice to his son, Lertes from Hamlet by Shakespeare (neither a lender or a borrower be). Since we are having such a beautiful Spring, I was reminded of another poem we had to memorize, another favorite:The Year’s at the Spring by Robert BrowningThe year's at the springAnd day's at the morn;Morning's at seven;The hillside's dew-pearled;The lark's on the wing;The snail's on the thorn;God's in His heaven -All's right with the world!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01037555111680888247 Janet

    Hound of Heaven is Francis Thompson ;-)My favorite Hopkins–my favorite poem–is God's Grandeur. It was probably my first favorite poem except for maybe Little Miss Muffet. AMDG, Janet

  • EPG

    This is not the first time a blog I have followed has had something about this poem. I love it, in part because it runs counter to the culture of mass production, uniformity and sleekness which characterizes much of the industrial and post-industrial world. If you've ever tried painting, you'll know just what the poem is talking about. Anything natural is, to one degree or another, dappled. A leaf is not green. As it reflects the light, it throws off a thousand shades of green, with highlights of yellow and white, and shadows of blue and purple and black. The best one can do as a painter is capture a few of those, and so evoke the whole. And one oak tree will hold a thousand leaves, and a forest untold billions, and not one leaf will be exactly like another. Nature indeed is "original, spare, strange." Glory indeed to the Creator of such variety and wonder.But then, the poet says it better than I.

  • Webster Bull

    @Janet, I wrote an early post on God's Grandeur, right here.@EPG, Beautiful comment. I've been saying for months that you should write more for YIMC! :-)

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Merriss died a Quaker; I strongly suspect was born Episcopalian. Was a little suspicious of Graham Greene and Muriel Spark for converting, although T.S. Eliot was fine by him. Weird what we remember. -Lida

  • Webster Bull

    Dear Lida,So nice to hear from you. Yes, I can see Mr. Merriss as a Quaker. He was kind, quiet, and inspiring. I wonder what he thought of Flannery O'Connor?

  • Maria

    Janet: Thank you! I know this– but was writing very, very early in the AM–and was half asleep. Right you are. He was a drug addict. I have always had such a deep affinity for the poem…It was one of my Father's favorite poems and he could quote long passages, from memory, at great length. Webster and ML–Thanks for your nice thoughts. I LOVE my new job!!!

  • Webster Bull

    Great news, Maria!

  • Brinton Young

    Webster, I remember reading Pied Beauty and God's Grandeur in Mr. Ploegstra's class in 11th grade. I particularly loved the second, but you I remember wrote a poem that echoed "Pied Beauty". Do you still have that? It was very good.It was the thing I remember best about you. How wonderful that it reflects something deep about your beliefs.

  • Webster Bull

    Brinton,Wow! You're right. I believe I wrote a parody involving not dappled but dark things. No, sorry, I don't have it! Though I remember my junior high school English teacher for having turned me on to Hopkins, I don't connect Mr. Ploegstra and Hopkins. Instead, I remember his class for Crime and Punishment and Raskolnikov!I would enjoy continuing this conversation by e-mail. If you'd like, you can click on my picture at right and link directly.


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