By Gerard Manley Hopkins
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour 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;
And 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:
“Poetry is a language that says more than ordinary language, but with less words and in less space.” This is the definition of poetry that I used in my classroom, and it is especially true for this beautiful piece. The definition is true, though, not only for the poem’s vivid, descriptive language, but also for the memories this poem holds for me. It speaks to my heart.
I grew up in a family of poetry lovers who not only read poetry, but who also memorized it. “Pied Beauty” was recited to me by my grandfather and my aunt throughout my childhood. It is a rich tangle of words in which Hopkins expresses his delight in all that is spotted and dappled in nature.
My brothers and I are quickly becoming the elders of an ever-growing clan. Yesterday, I found out that two of my brothers are challenging one another to memorize poetry, a piece a month. Memorizing and reciting poetry serves connect our family to its own rich history, while it also extends that history (and a love of the written word) to the next generation. I think it is time that I also take up this challenge. Memorization is good for our minds, as well as for our hearts as we age.
So “Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manley Hopkins is what they have chosen to memorize this month, and so will I. So much of how I view the world, the lenses through which I see my faith, my family, the beach, my garden, my time under water, have come from the poetry that I heard recited as a child. So many of the lessons that I learned were taught through the words of great poets and writers, but in the voices of my elders. Today’s tide line photo is for my brothers, but it is also for my parents, grandparents, and the elders in my family. It is pied beauty.