Nineteenth-century English poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins is admired for the highly original use of rhythm in his poetry, a quality that can be seen in the following poems, “The Windhover,” “Pied Beauty,” and “Hurrahing in Harvest.” A windhover, also known as a kestrel, is a small type of falcon. These three poems express Hopkins’s devotion to the Catholic faith, as well as his fascination with the natural world. Like most of Hopkins’s poetry, the poems were first published in 1918, nearly 20 years after his death. In a note on the religious life of Hopkins (1840-1889) Humphrey House expresses the view that Hopkins was not a mystic and that there is nothing in the poem of Hopkins to show that he feels the immediate and personal presence of God. It is impossible to agree with Humphrey House in this matter, because reverse seems to be the case. Hopkins was by nature a deeply religious man; he was an ardent believer in God and in the divinity of Christ. What is more, he saw God everywhere and specially in the objects of nature. Every where in his poetry we find him expressing a fervent belief in God and Christ and invoking the deity; “Thou mastering me
God! Giver of breath and bread;
World’s strand, sway of the sea;
Lord of living and dead”;
Hopkins being a keenly sensuous poet and a Roman Catholic priest at the same time his poetry bears the unmistakable stamp of his poetic sensibility and devotional fervour. The poet and the priest in Hopkins are often in conflict and generate a lot of tensions. There are only a few poems in which the contradiction seems to be resolved and the poet and the priest are in harmony. Hopkins’s “Pied Beauty” is one of such poems.
“Pied Beauty” points to poet’s power of sensuous appreciation of the beauty of the things around, his poetic concentration, compassion and above all, his unquestioning faith in God.
All nature is good;
“Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with worm breast and with oh!
He believes that the created beauty is the reflections of God’s spirit, and the beauty of nature is constantly reborn and renewed through the brooding of the Holy Ghost over the bent world. The world has been twisted and bent by men. Nature has been polluted and violated by man’s industrial activities. Yet the beauty of nature is never exhausted because; “The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; It gather to a greatness, like the ooze of oil crushed”. God is in and over nature like the dove brooding over its young ones with protecting care and affection. The Christian concept of God as love and protector is vividly expressed in the last two lines; “He fathers forth whose beauty is past change: Praise him”.
The very expression “Pied Beauty” means multi-coloured beauty of things. The multi-coloured beauty of things with their ever changing (shifting) colour and forms is very much pleasing to the poet. But the realization that they all are the manifestations of the beauty and grace of the supreme creator feels his heart with wonder and admiration.
The realization that each and every ordinary object of the world of nature has on it the touch of a magic hand of the supreme artist includes one to worship, sing the glory and grace God. The sky of couple colour brings the association spotted cows. The trouts that swim have on them rose-spot on dots beautifully distributed. The chest nuts that falling from the trees is bright red in colour like glowing coal in a fire. Landscapes and sky-scapes are never alike; the lands being in plots and pieces and the sky ever changing its colour.
Though God has created this ever changing and constantly shifting panorama around us, he himself is past change. He who with paternal affection and crashing tenderness has created thins of bewildering diversity is himself subject to no change. All things that are strikingly different of the same creator who is above difference; He has created some contrasting things such as – swiftness and slowness, sweetness and sourness, dazzle and dimness.
So the world of nature with its varied forms of beauty has its appeal to the sensuous poet, but he sees it in the light of his devotion. It appears definitely more beautiful. He finds that each and every object of nature glowing with the glory of God and carrying to him the intimation of divinity. Thus the poet concludes his poem with an invitation to all, to praise the glory and grace of God.