In his poem "Pied Beauty," on a simplistic level, it is easy for just about any reader to understand that Gerard Manley Hopkins is writing about the glories of God's creations. He says in the first line, "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."
It is only then that the reader realizes that this is not a simplistic poem. Hopkins is not simply saying "Thank God for the cows and fish." He is, rather, thanking God for the exquisite details and intricacies that most people neglect to notice.
He thanks God, for example,for the "dappled things"--for the "brinded cow" and for the polka dots that decorate the trouts, for the "finches' wings" and even "all trades, their gear and trim."
This is a poem of extreme gratitude and wonder.
- Hopkins is thanking God for life
- Hopkins is thanking God for the quality of life and for his ability to appreciate it.
Since the poem opens with the words "Glory be to God" and closes with the words "Praise him," it can perhaps be thought of as a sort of prayer--which was a brazen, sacrilegious tactic to use during Hopkins' time.
But as an artist, he was attempting to expand his peers' horizons, and to show that, owing to the magnitude and complexities of God's creations, that there will always be another incredible detail to notice. Hopkins seemed to be challenging the readers to look further, and for his peers to examine their religious lives more deeply. And these animals, plants and tools, and, as he put it, "Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)/With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;" can also symbolize man's self. A man can look deep within himself, for example, and can discover wonders of compassion and goodness. He may even discover that he has a "dappled" soul or a heart "freckled" with kindness.