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Tuesday trees: pied beauty

November 20, 2012

How beautiful are beech woods in any season! One grey, damp morning last week, with shreds of mist lying low over the river at the foot of the hills, I stopped at a couple of beech trees to admire their stippled bark and splotches of bright last leaves. They reminded me of both a painter and a poet.

The painter is Edward Atkinson Hornel, one of the ‘Glasgow Boys’, in whose paintings your eye is sometimes confused by the play of dappled light across faces and tree-trunks, so that you are not quite sure how many little girls are peeping at you from the branches.

‘The way through the woods’, E. A. Hornel, 1916, sold at Christie’s, South Kensington last week.

‘Gathering Oak Apples’, E. A. Hornel, 1905, Hunterian Museum, Glasgow

The poet brought to mind by the beech trees is Gerard Manley Hopkins. A convert to Catholicism, his evident delight in the natural world was inextricable from his faith. Joy in the infinite variety of creation poured out of him as praise, as naturally as breathing. I sympathise with his outlook.

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.

If you enjoy the poetry of nature, you might enjoy Ariel’s Song.
11 Comments leave one →
  1. Margaret Lambert permalink
    November 20, 2012 11:52 pm

    I love language and the sound of it, and pictures which capture the spirits of trees, and poetry. This may be one of your very best posts, though I always find them a pleasure. Thank you, thank you.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 21, 2012 10:54 am

      I am so pleased that this gave you pleasure, Margaret.
      G.M.H.’s use of language is wondrous. He so obviously relished the syllables of the English language, and the feel of them rolling around the mouth like marbles. He must, I feel, have enjoyed reciting aloud.

  2. November 21, 2012 1:01 am

    Outstanding post. Perfect match with poem and painting. Well done

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 21, 2012 10:55 am

      Thank you so much, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  3. November 25, 2012 7:25 pm

    Lovely, DB. You say so much with a few well-chosen words and three lovely images and Hopkins’ poetry always lifts me onto another plane.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 27, 2012 12:15 am

      Thank you, Perpetua. I do think that GMH’s poetry is pretty special, for many reasons.

  4. November 25, 2012 9:59 pm

    Reblogged this on The Green Reader and commented:
    Once again I’m in a bit of a hurry so I decide to reblog.

    Dancing Beastie has got to be my favourite blog out if the ones I follow, because although the posts are mainly recaps of daily life in Scotland, I love reading them and I always end up wishing I could just hop on a plane and go visit all the beautiful places I see in the pictures!!

    And I’m always looking forward to the Tuesday Tree 😉 It’s been more than a year now since I discovered this blog and it’s really worthwhile so check it out!!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 27, 2012 12:12 am

      Thank you, I’m very chuffed to hear that you enjoy Dancing Beastie! And you inspire me to keep going with the Tuesday tree, which has been a bit erratic this year.


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