By Gerard Manley Hopkins1844–1889 Gerard Manley Hopkins
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow (http://goo.gl/K9YIm );
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim (http://goo.gl/8daT7 );
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings (http://goo.gl/tC2XT );
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
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:
[This is an exquisite poem. I wouldn’t even call it beautiful because I feel beautiful isn’t special enough. It’s exquisite.
It begins with a simple, elegant, and peculiar praise of God. The poet praises the way God uses color in his creation. The Quran makes a very similar point here, “And also the things of varying colors He has created for you in the earth. There is certainly a sign in that for people who pay heed.” (Surat an-Nahl, 13)
Have you ever looked at a cow? I mean really looked at it, as if you had an eternity just to do that. When you were a kid, did you ever pick up a feather and turn it over and over, looking at every inch? To help you visualize what the poet was talking about, I’ve included links to images of a brinded gnu, a trout with moles, and several finches.
When you first read this poem, you may have missed its rhyme. It has a special rhyme scheme that goes ABC, ABC, DEF, DEF or put another way – things, cow, swim, . . . wings, plough, trim. There are other things going on here like sprung rhythm and regular feet, but it’s not crucial that we delve into those.
The poet also does something clever with adjacent word pairs. Listen to the following as you read them aloud “couple colour,” “fickle, freckled” “swift, slow,” “sweet, sour.” This is alliteration, or repetition of letters.
Ask a poet how hard it is to write the ending of a poem. Ideally, you want to sum up everything you’ve said, circle back to the beginning, and push the reader a step farther from the second to last line. That’s three important objectives that a coda (ending) should fulfill. I submit that GMH does it all with “Praise him.”]