How does Hopkins reflect the idea of God The Creator in the poem Pied Beauty? Timed response

Written in response to Year 11 who wrote the same essay this afternoon.  I will use this as a reference and get them to mark it.  Feel free to use it in any way you wish.  I do not claim it to be brilliant, but in 35 minutes, I am not sure that i could do better.  I like to write the same essays as my students – if I can’t do it, I should not be asking them to do so!

How does Hopkins explore the idea of God The Creator in PIED BEAUTY?

An essay under timed conditions at my kitchen table: 35 minutes.

Planning: points I want to make • Curtal Sonnet – focus on Love and shift after a volta • Psalmic tone • Sprung Rhythm • Use of pairing throughout poem – compounds and juxtapositions • Nature and human element • Shift after volta to allow for the negative and ill-perceived to gain credit • Final line.

In his curtal sonnet Pied Beauty, Hopkins calls on the reader to give praise to God for creation not of the wonderous and pure, but for “dappled things”. He uses sonnet form in a condensed version to express his love and to allow for a subtle shift of emphasis after line 6 –the volta of this reduced form.

The introduction tries to show a clear understanding of the form of the poem and its relevance whilst also establishing a thesis for the rest of the essay.

The idea of “dappled things” is picked up immediately in the compound adjectives of the opening sestet. Hopkins writes of the “rose-moles” on the trout and calls attention to the beauty – “rose” having connotations of natural beauty – of the disfigurement which can cover this fish. Similarly he uses the stark pairing of “couple-colour” to introduce comparison with a “brinded cow” through the use of a simile. Here the purpose may not be simply to show the clear patterning of the hide as resembling the sky, but rather to engage with the idea of the mundane or utterly taken for granted having beauty.

This paragraph focuses on compounds – a key feature of the writing of this poem. I might have extended this idea to draw more attention to the use of juxtaposed doubles throughout the poem if I had more time.

The poem opens with a strong injunction to bring “Glory to God”. Use of Hopkins’ favourite sprung rhythm throws the stresses onto the first syllable of each foot here and helps to create a sense of joy in the psalm-like poem. This effect is redoubled at the end of the poem by the use of the double monosyllabilic final line: “praise him” is a clear imperative which allows no room for discussion. The deeply religious Hopkins is asserting his belief that God is responsible for all the wonders in the world –even those that are not immediately recognized as such.

Here I return to the start of the poem to discuss rhythm and its intended effect. I link the opening to the final line to ensure that I am looking at the poem as a whole unit of meaning.

This idea is shown in the opening sestet when he juxtaposes the works of God, against the works of man by introducing “trades, their gear, tackle and trim”. Alliteration helps to link these ideas together and to create a sound world which is picked up again in Line 9 when the al;literative S of the list of opposites: “swift,slow;sweet, sour; “ soften into the Z and D patterning of “adazzle,dim.” It is as though “Dim” is emphasized by the altered alliterative pattern and removal of the assonantal A vowel because Hopkins wants the reader to recognize the beauty of such a negative concept as “dim”.

This paragraph follows on naturally from the previous one to enlarge on the idea of the mundane and develops the alliterative patterns found within the poem.

This line is found after the volta and a subtle change has taken place. At the start of the poem, the reader is presented with praise of couplings that might go unnoticed, yet from Line 7 the comparisons are with the “counter” and the “strange”. Hopkins wants the reader to note the negative beauties, not just those that often pass unobserved. This allows him to introduce the “fickle”- the untrustworthy and the “freckled” after which he asks a rhetorical question in parenthesis. This “who knows how?” suggests not just the idea of God being omniscient, but also the sense of wonder that Hopkins feels when faced by such a range of delicate design.

Following on again and linked clearly to the previous paragraph, the argument now assumes understanding of technical lexis and offers an interpretation of the second section which reflects the sonnet form of the writing.

The poem was written in 1877, nearly 20 years after Darwin had published the Theory of Evolution. Hopkins adopts an evangelical tone in this poem and even has a dig at the Evolutionists with his mention on Line 4 of “finches wings”. Darwin had based much of his research on finches. Here Hopkins seems to be stating a clear belief that whatever variation was evident, it was a result of divine planning, rather than evolution. For Hopkins, God is the creator and will continue to be so, as he “fathers-forth” all things “whose beauty is past change”. This compound not only suggests an eternal creator but also a great Patriarch thus not only creating but also protecting and teaching.

Brief context is introduced here to offer a rationale for the abrupt “finches wings” and to allow me to suggest that there is an evangelical tone to the poem – it is more than praise, it is seeking to convert or to convince.

The curtal sonnet is a reduced form. Here, instead of a Shakespearian final couplet, the brevity is maintained in the imperative “praise him”. The final line is a mere spondee, a pair of monosyllables which round of the “psalm” with a clear instruction.

The last paragraph refers back to the first and reiterates the comments about form made earlier. It tries to sum up the “idea” of the poem whilst showing more technical language.


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Filed under CIE IGCSE, poetry

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