Monday, November 5, 2012

Gerard Manley Hopkins: Pied Beauty

'to shout' photo (c) 2009, andy li - license: part of his dream teaching lineup this year, Andrew has been going through Augustine's Confessions with his advanced Latin students.  As a result, we've been having a lot of great discussions about philosophy of time--mostly in the kitchen, while Andrew does something productive, and I . . . attempt to do something productive.  My attempts at multi-tasking never go quite as well as I hope, mostly because I can't talk without using my hands any more than my father ever could, and so dinner ends up being rather late. There's nothing like talking about time to make you lose all track of it.

I love how Augustine's philosophy of time is all shot through with aesthetic wonder, and bursts forth in worship.  But while Augustine lays out his theory of time in a frenzy of sophisticated mental motion, Hopkins presents his in the serene stillness of a few homely images.  This is either profoundly ironic or profoundly fitting--I'm not sure which.  In any case, I'm intrigued by the idea that dappled-ness is something that can be displayed in either space or time.  In this model, change is not a property of time, but rather a property of "fickle, freckled" things--opening up all sorts of possibilities for God's relationship to space-time.

This poem leaves me wildly euphoric at the prospect of all the thinking that there is to be done, but at the same time calmly joyous in the certainty that right now, it's time to close up the laptop and go make some bread.  It's the sort of thinking about time that inspires me to want to learn to live well and contentedly within the rhythms of my changingness.

It's just the sort of thing a girl like me needs.

Pied Beauty
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things--
  For skies of couple-colour as a brindled 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:
            Praise him.

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