by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Where It All Goes Down
"Pied Beauty" is a hymn that is sung in nature instead of church. The setting is the English countryside. Some nature poems describe the exotic, such as jungles, mountains, and other varieties of wilderness. The landscape of this poem is decidedly domesticated. Instead of tigers, dense trees, and rushing waterfalls, we have cows, trout, chestnuts, and birds. The land is divided into "plots and pieces" for farming (line 5).
Still, humans don't dominate the scene or stick out in any particular way. Humans don't control nature – they are an important part of nature, and the variety of their jobs is compared to the variety of colors on a trout or a bird's wings. But they do not dominate nature. Most important for "Pied Beauty," the landscape is characterized by dots, spots, dabs, and dapples of all kinds. It reminds us of a painting by the famous French pointillist Georges Seurat, "A Sunday Afternoon in the Park." (It's the painting featured in the museum scene of Ferris Beuhler's Day Off). There is no uniformity anywhere in this vision of nature – everything is a kaleidoscope of color and other qualities like "sweet" and "sour" (line 9).