Happy Thanksgiving 2016! “Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

There is a very bad pun waiting to happen in the title of today’s poem as the final entry for this year’s Thanksgiving countdown. I’ll just leave that much here.

Beyond bad puns, this is a beautiful poem that, I find, expresses something essential about gratitude: “All things…/ Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)/ With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim”–all things. Years ago I was told by a spiritual mentor that if I would notice and be grateful for the small things, that I would be blessed with more. Now, with degrees and jobs and a bit more skepticism under my belt I can feel a knee-jerk reaction to that maxim that mutters something about confirmation bias. But I also know that during times I have felt most irritated with life in general, I take up a gratitude practice, and I see results that defy a straightforward, rational explanation. Sometimes I write what I’m grateful for before sleeping each night. My most common practice has been to set my phone timer for four minutes and just think through things I’m grateful for until the timer runs out. It’s brief. The action is small. For me, the effect, even after just a few days, has been astounding.

So here is a brief, small poem. It finds beauty in the speckled, mixed, cross-colored bits of life that, so often, may be categorized as second-best.

Pied Beauty
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 áll trádes, 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:
                                Praise him.


If you’d like to explore more Thanksgiving poetry, let me suggest this compilation from the editors at the Poetry Foundation. Wishing you a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!


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