Pied Beauty

This post first appeared in November 2011, but the poem has been on my mind lately. I’ve been feeling bad about myself, thinking about how cancer and major injuries like the one I got in the bus bombing have left me with a distorted body and impaired physical and mental ability; feeling ugly and useless in my limited, somewhat isolated life. But this poem not only finds beauty in things that are “other”; it even praises God for making them. It reassures me that I have a place in the world just the way I am.

Starry NightI’ve always been attracted to life on the margins. People and places and things that are out of the mainstream always seem more colorful to me, more interesting. Now, in the full glory of middle life, I have chosen a lifestyle that puts me on the margins of society. Some religious people might say that I am in the world, but not of it. Other people, not so generous, might say that I’m an odd bird who doesn’t fly with the rest of the flock.

But society needs its marginal people, too. After all, it is the margins of a page that define it, give it form and beauty and importance, that contain it. When particularly impressed by something we read, we might make a note in the margin – a convenient place from which to observe and process what’s going on in the mainstream.

It is in that spirit that I read Gerard Manley Hopkins’s 1877 poem, “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.

What a fantastic phrase that is: “All things counter, original, spare, strange”. These are words that are more often pejorative than not, but Hopkins is giving glory to his God for them.

I suppose poets are on the margins, too.

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14 Responses

  1. jdub says:

    Thank you for posting this; so true, all of it. All the best to you, peace and continued health.

  2. Susanne says:

    That is a beautiful poem. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Emma Flesser says:

    Anyone who can write an article like that is beautiful. And we are know that you, Knot, are very beautiful. And I love Hopkins, and Pied Beauty. I was introduced to Hopkins at 16 by a maiden Catholic blue-stocking, and she was one of the best teachers I ever had. RIP Miss Maidwell.

    • Knot Telling says:

      Hopkins at age 16? I still don’t really grasp his work at almost 60! You were very lucky to have Miss Maidwell.

      Thank you so for your kind words, Emma.

  4. Primomelom melon says:

    Your comment struck home with me. At age 85 Ismell the putrid door I must become. My body is also distorted by the wear of age. My memory is clouded. I live with fear. But I rember the nicer things in my life…you for example. It is knot for no nothing that g-d fas left me with that. This kind of memory. I understand your write ng since it share many of the feelings.. But each day is a gift. I rest on this.

  5. In my own words, I’ve never been impressed with people who are cookie-cutter or like tract homes. They look contemporary and pretty – and exactly alike. Now a cottage in the woods may not have all of the amenities of the tract home, but it’s loaded with charm and character. That’s where I like to hang out. Thank you for being a lovely cottage in the woods.

  6. Maxine D says:

    You are neither ugly nor useless Knots – you may not have a ‘conventionally (as per the media) beautiful’ body, but your mind and spirit are outstanding – I have learnt so much from you.
    And yes, we do need the ‘unconventional’ for balance, and to discover true beauty, which is way more than appearances.
    Blessings and prayers

  7. Hi Knot,
    Society absolutely needs those marginal people too. I love the way you put it: “After all, it is the margins of a page that define it, give it form and beauty and importance, that contain it.” That’s profound and quite lovely too. And yes, poets are many times on the margins… Thanks for sharing this again.

  8. dear Knot,

    I am sorry you are feeling the way you described. but I am so glad that you have the beautiful Hopkins poem to fall back on. the way I feel about and see you is as a brightly shining beacon of hope, of love, of compassion, and determination for all those who read your words and find the truth of your authenticity, the true loveliness of your being. you inspire, you teach, you advocate, you show strength, you value and use words that matter, and once in a while we get treated to an oh, so delicious rant. I love the quote by C. S. Lewis; “you do not have a soul. you are a soul. you have a body,” I love it because it speaks volumes about how our humanness sometimes robs us of the notion to just be.

    much love,

    Karen XOXO

  9. Catherine says:

    Lovely. Yes, I think we need the margins.

  10. Kathi says:

    I love this. My favorite things are those on the margins. Love you, dear one.

  1. 27 September, 2014

    […] gorgeous reflection by Knot Telling on the true nature of […]

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