Wild geese analysis

7 July 2016

Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” focuses on the beauty of life as well as surviving its everyday challenges and difficulties. It is a perfect mix of both the underlying and the obvious meanings. The poem is in free-verse so punctuations are used sparingly throughout the poem but enough commas are distributed on areas where there should be a slight “pause”; significantly chosen words are placed individually per line. The 1st line “You do not have to be good” (Oliver 1) marks the obvious soulful mood of the poem.

This is followed by a description of religious approach when one tends to feel guilty “You do not have to walk on your knees/ For a hundred miles through the desert/ repenting” (2 – 4). This refers to the pressure to obey certain rules which some individuals might find burdensome yet must be followed or they suffer the consequences.

Then the poem speaks of a natural human desire “You only have to let the soft animal of your / body/love what it loves” (5 – 7) — the everyday challenge to follow what society considers to be decent but somehow with limited freedom; as well as an invitation to share in the common sadness experienced by all people “Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine” (8 – 9).

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The obviousness stops at “Meanwhile the world goes on” (10) making way for the underlying meaning by the use of the metaphor in the following lines: “Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of / the rain” (11- 12).

The sun signifies the days when things are going fine and good while the clear pebbles of the rain are the days when things are not going so well. The pebbles are clear in the sense that the rain will not be prolonged and so are the trials. The succeeding lines: “are moving across the landscapes/ over the prairies and the deep trees/ the mountains and the rivers” (13 – 15) goes on to specify the various places (the landscapes), situations of abundance (prairies) and of poorness (deep trees); moments of glory (the mountains) and defeat (the rivers).

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