Friday, 9 January 2009

Dappled things from Gerard Manley Hopkins

The following brings welcome relief from the recent downbeat and lachrymose tone found hereabouts. There is indeed something about the quality of dappledness. It is a quality that we find pleasing, military camouflage excepted. It's to do with the arbitrary positions of the various harmonious shades. Although there is a kind of uniformity in dappledness it is generally not rigid uniformity. It hints at something beyond. An almost relaxed attitude, a sort of laissez-faire. Hopkins brings it out in his poems:

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things -
For skies of couple-colour as a brindled 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;
And all trades, their gear and tackle 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:
Praise him.


A second poem by Hopkins contains a reference to dappled dew and demonstrates the poet's versatility and skill as he adapts the meter to the changing scene. Contrast for instance the beat of the first lines to the smoothness of the last. The poem was written at Inversnaid, Loch Lomond, Scotland. The poet followed the course of a stream back to its source.


This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fawn-froth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, fell-frowning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)


  1. I enjoy Hopkins springing step thanks Gwilym

  2. Me too. I also like the haiku-like quality of some of his work, as for example (from 2nd poem):

    degged with dew
    dappled with dew
    the groins of the braes

  3. I love Hopkins work, his way with words is quite inspiring

  4. Crafty, I agree. And Inversnaid is, when read aloud, as you rightly say, most inspiring with its sound, with its weight and care of words.


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