Structure and versification in Pied Beauty


The form is that of a curtal sonnet. Its rhyming does not seem to keep to a Petrarchan format, rhyming abcabc dbcdc, which bears no relationship to any traditional sonnet form.


The metre keeps much more to a strict iambic pentameter than the full sonnets, though:

  • only l.8 is absolutely regular
  • l.1,5,7 all start with trochaic feet which give rise to a possible reading of the whole line as trochaic (Many iambic pentameter lines have the first foot inverted to look like a trochee, but then revert on the second foot. But not here)
  • l.5 is actually a hexameter (six stresses), with a caesura, but it is the only line like this
  • ll.2,3 have small groups of extra unstressed vowels, to give the rhythm a certain lightness
  • in l.6, Hopkins actually marks in the first two stresses to make sure we see them, and it therefore seems quite a heavy line
  • the opposites of 1.9 create a much lighter rhythm. Hopkins in his notes suggests the second of each pair should have a secondary stress, rather than a full one - this gives quite a lilt to the line
  • the last four words, all stressed monosyllables, with the two words set apart on the last line, form an emphatic coda.
Investigating Pied Beauty
  • How would you scan ll.7 and 8?
  • (General) Have you found this an easier poem than others you have studied?
    • If that is the case, does its easiness make it more rewarding to study / more enjoyable to read?
Related material
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.