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Dappled, Freckled, Sweet & Stippled

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;

[God] fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise [God].

"Pied Beauty" is my favorite poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889). "Pied" means having two or more colors. It is God's freckled, stippled variety in cows, trout and finches he exalts. I would add to his list, the dappled skin of newborn babies. Hopkins' extended family encouraged in him a love of nature, art and music as well as a study of Scripture. As a child, Gerard experimented with some aesthetic practices-- refraining from drinking water for a week, fasting to gain proximity to God. A bit of a mystic he was. Hopkins became a Jesuit priest and burned all of his early poetry, thinking it wasn't holy. That his poems somehow didn't do justice to Jesus.

However, the way that Hopkins was affected by the English countryside, his observance of natural beauty along with his grounding in the Bible couldn't be contained in the sermons he preached or the young priests he taught. He began to write poems again, which creatively hail God's majesty, glory and wonder through natural things. Though he didn't publish many poems in his lifetime, Robert Bridges, Poet Laureate of England 1913-1930, made Hopkins' poems both popular and public after Gerard's death. Hopkins wrote in what he called "sprung meter." Some scholars suggest that this style along with his alliteration and rhymes were links between more formal Victorian poetry and free verse. Hopkins' poems began the break with the clear structures of poetry in iambic pentameter which had been the pattern in English poetry since Shakespeare. The way he draws pictures with his words and phrases makes me take pause and reflect more deeply on things I normally wouldn't notice.

All this goes to say that I had a delightful visit last Saturday with a fresh faced small and wondrous child named Harley. I chatted with his faithful, strong and brave Mom and Dad-- Jennifer and Jonathan. All this goes to say that one of the lilies I planted last year has bloomed. The child, his parents, their trusty seeing-eye dog Rockne, the lily-- all indicative of God's beauty, past change...swift; slow; sweet; sour; adazzle; dappled; dim. Praise God.

Praise God. Indeed.

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown in the oven, will he not much more clothe you--

Grace and Peace,


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