Saturday, June 24, 2006


Pied Beauty

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.

~ Gerard Manley Hopkins ~

We read that poem at school; it must have been when I was about twelve. I remember thinking at the time, with all the cutting wisdom of a twelve year old boy whose interests were dominated by science and engineering, what a load of drivel it was. I was still a few years away from discovering any meaning beyond the words that cover the surface of poetry; words that are like paint daubed onto an invisible object to give it a tangible shape and form.

And yet, although I dismissed it at the time, the words somehow lodged in a quiet recess of my mind, patiently waiting for the moment to come when I would be ready for them. Every so often, something – usually patterns of light and shade – reminds me of Hopkins’ words; today it was light dancing among the silver birch leaves at the end of the garden.

Later on, I found myself suffering motorcycle withdrawal symptoms, having spent Friday working at home (I never thought I’d see the day when I actually missed the journey to work; I’d forgotten how addictive motorcycling is) so I went for a 30 mile spin through the leafy lanes of Hertfordshire. Enjoying both the power of the machine yet also the beauty of the sunlight filtering through the trees, with Hopkins’ words still in my mind it seemed I’d found a reconciliation between the two widely spaced ends of the spectrum that encompasses the person I am.

Not either or, but both and. Light and shade; adazzle and dim; swift and slow; motorcyclist and poet.

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