Poem introduction

'Pied Beauty' is a hymn of creation, an exuberant celebration of all things multifarious and mutable; in particular, of those qualities, both of objects and in people, we might otherwise (especially in the Victorian age) find odd, contrary, peculiar. This is a curtal sonnet, the form miniaturised, and within its magnifying small compass, has a wonderful sense of scale: the large sky, the close up on trout scales and bird wings, the long shot on landscape. It is also a hymn to language, its ever-changing or alliterating consonants, a poem in which language itself becomes dappled. It begins and ends with variations of Jesuit mottoes, bracketing the world’s flux within their steadfast orders. At the same time, the movement of the sestet echoes that of the octet, but in reverse, creating a fold along the turn, like wings. Like a Sufi text, this is a wonderfully taut illustration of the mystical principle of multiplicity within unity.

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