Glory be to God for dappled things -
For skies of couple-color 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;
All 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:
Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit, is best known for his devotional poems. Oftentimes considered one of the greatest Victorian poets, his poems are full of creative word combinations that seem to capture the imaginative essence of things. Here, he uses those interesting hyphenated descriptions to celebrate the variety of Creation and its great beauty.
The sounds of these images are crisp and ring nicely in the mouth. "fresh-firecoal," "finches' wings," these sounds have a pleasant crunch to them. They create beautiful sounds that very aptly and succinctly describe the interesting oppositions of colors and patterns in nature. The whole poem is in praise of "dappled things," things which are marked with spots or patches. The title, "Pied Beauty" means things having two or more colors. It's a celebration of the harmony and variety of nature, and the fundamental mystery of creation.
During the second stanza, the narrator wonders at how "He," the Creator God, "fathers-forth" all manners of things, "whose beauty is past change." It is impossible for the narrator to say just how this beauty came to be, or why indeed it is beautiful, as evidenced by the line, "(who knows how?)" spoken as a parenthetical aside to the reader. The images in the poem piece themselves into the mind effortlessly, and personally, make me think of a mackerel sky, dimpled clouds dotting a New England landscape with streaks of cloudy spots. I hope you find some comforting familiar beautiful brinded image yourself.