Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Pied Beauty" - I love Freckles by Hopkin's

In Gerard Manley Hopkin’s sort 11 lined poem Pied Beauty, there is a comment on both the natural as pied and the outcast as pied. The author seems to be highlighting the nature or Godly aspects of the spotted in the first 6 lines, while the second half (lines 7 through 11) show the ‘odd’ person as a positive part of life. He ends the poem with “Praise him” (line 11); both a comment on God (as in ending a prayer) and also a praise for a person who does not quite fit into society. The religious aspect is especially interesting, because the poem starts, “Glory be to God…(line 1)” which could be seen as an opening to a prayer. Overall, this poem is about the appeal of the different, both in the natural world and humanity.

Hopkins uses vocabulary pairings that are very interesting. Most of the time he uses two wards that have similar first letters and adds a third word that doesn’t. This two thirds aspect creates disequilibrium because the reader expects the third word to also start with the common first letter. This is seen in line 3 twice, “Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings”. Though ‘Fresh’ and ‘firecoal’ combine in a harmonious way, chestnut is an odd, harsh word. I think the reason this is done is to highlight the dappled or odd element. The third word represents the pied word of the three. It is seen in the reverse order on line 6 when he writes “Gear and tackle and trim.” He could have easily said tools instead of gear, which would have made a triplet of T words, but by using ‘gear’ there is a uncomfortable change.

This disequilibrium is continued with the structure and form of the poem. In the first three stanzas there are three lines each one tab inward from the previous one, creating a waterfall feeling. This is comfortable to the reader, until we arrive at the last stanza which only has two lines, the last quite shorter than the first. The last line finishes, “Praise him (line 11)”, which I have noted earlier, is not a simple line. Leaving the last line of the poem with this seems almost like an abrupt stop, or command. Hopkins is giving the last line the power to say, ‘admire the differences in the world, both in nature and man’.

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