Pied beauty: appreciating imperfection on Thanksgiving
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 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. —
—Pied Beauty, Gerard Manley Hopkins
I’ve been struck by this poem since I first read it, and today I was reminded of it by my dad’s homemade pumpkin pie. “Pied” here means blotchy or dappled (not round and baked in a crust), but our pie fits both definitions.
What I initially admired in the poem was the rhetorical inversion of the undesirable into the desired—the flawed particular preferred to the flawless ideal—but I can’t say I agreed. I’ve benefited from changing my mindset, because pied beauty is easier to come by. Look close enough, even at the pores of a supermodel, and see that no beauty is “unpied.”
The blotches and freckles on our pumpkin pie are evidence of its deliciousness: Dad always uses Craig Claiborne’s old New York Times Cookbook recipe for the filling, a rich custard with molasses and lots of spices, and they bubble up and brown on top. Things to be thankful for on Thanksgiving: pie, obviously, but pied beauty as well.
A postscript: No, Dad doesn’t remember using that recipe—he made the one on the can! So much for my rhetorical flourishes. That, my friends, is pied beauty in action.