'Marengo' by Mary Oliver

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New Poems1991-1992Out of the sump rise the marigolds.
From the rim of the marsh, muslin with mosquitoes,
rises the egret, in his cloud-cloth.
Through the soft rain, like mist, and mica,
the withered acres of moss begin again.When I have to die, I would like to die
on a day of rain--
long rain, slow rain, the kind you think will never end.And I would like to have whatever little ceremony there might be
take place while the rain is shoveled and shoveled out of the sky,and anyone who comes must travel, slowly and with thought,
as around the edges of the great swamp.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Marengo by Mary Oliver: A Masterpiece in Poetic Imagery

When it comes to poetry, Mary Oliver is a name that many enthusiasts are familiar with. Her works are known for their vivid descriptions of the natural world, and the emotions that come with experiencing it. One of her most notable pieces is "Marengo", a poem that captures the beauty, mystery, and even violence of nature in a way that only Oliver could.

The Poem

"Marengo" is a poem about a horse, but it is more than that. It is a meditation on the power of nature, and the way it influences our lives. The poem begins with a description of the horse, who is "glossy as chestnuts in the sun." Oliver's use of imagery is immediate and vivid, creating a mental picture of the animal that is both beautiful and powerful.

As the poem progresses, we learn more about the horse, and the world it inhabits. It is described as "wild-eyed, with nostrils flared," suggesting that it is not just a mere animal, but a force of nature itself. The horse's movements are also likened to the movements of the natural world, with phrases like "the wind of his passage" and "the thundering of his hooves."

However, there is a dark side to this natural power. The horse is also described as "dangerous," with the potential to "crush a man" with one wrong move. This juxtaposition of beauty and danger is a recurring theme in Oliver's work, and it is one of the things that makes her poetry so compelling.


On a surface level, "Marengo" is a poem about a horse. However, as with any good poem, there is much more going on beneath the surface. At its core, the poem is about the power of nature, and the way that it can both nourish and destroy us.

The horse is a symbol of this power, with its beauty and danger representing the dual nature of the natural world. The fact that the horse is described as "wild-eyed" and "dangerous" suggests that nature is not always benevolent, and that it can be just as destructive as it is life-giving.

At the same time, however, the horse is also a symbol of freedom and wildness. Its movements are compared to the wind and the thunder, suggesting that it is not something that can be tamed or controlled. This idea of freedom in the face of danger is another recurring theme in Oliver's work, and it is one that speaks to the human desire for autonomy and independence.

Literary Criticism

From a literary standpoint, "Marengo" is a masterclass in poetic imagery. Oliver's use of language is both immediate and evocative, creating a mental picture of the horse that is both beautiful and terrifying. Her use of metaphors and similes is also impressive, with phrases like "glossy as chestnuts in the sun" and "like a windmill in the sky" painting a vivid picture of the natural world.

One of the things that sets Oliver's work apart from other poets is her ability to capture the emotional resonance of nature. In "Marengo", we feel both the awe and the fear that come with encountering a powerful force like the horse. This emotional depth is what makes her poetry so compelling, and it is something that is often missing from other works that deal with similar themes.


In conclusion, "Marengo" is a beautiful and powerful poem that captures the essence of nature in a way that only Mary Oliver could. Its use of imagery, metaphor, and emotional resonance make it a masterpiece of poetic expression, and its themes of beauty and danger, freedom and wildness, are as relevant today as they were when it was first written.

Whether you are a long-time fan of Oliver's work or a newcomer to poetry, "Marengo" is a must-read. It is a testament to the power of language and the natural world, and it will leave you feeling both awed and humbled by the mysteries of life.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Marengo: A Masterpiece by Mary Oliver

Poetry Marengo is a classic poem written by Mary Oliver, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century. This poem is a masterpiece that captures the essence of poetry and its power to transform our lives. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language used in this poem to understand its meaning and significance.

The poem begins with the line, "In the deep fall, the body awakens," which sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The fall season is a time of change and transformation, and the body's awakening represents a new beginning. This line also suggests that poetry has the power to awaken our senses and bring us to a new level of awareness.

The next few lines describe the beauty of the fall season, with its "golden fields" and "red berries." The imagery used here is vivid and evocative, painting a picture of a world in transition. The use of color is particularly effective, as it captures the richness and vibrancy of the season.

The poem then shifts to a more introspective tone, as the speaker reflects on the power of poetry. "It shakes the leaves," she says, "and spills the seeds of inspiration." This line suggests that poetry has the power to shake us out of our complacency and inspire us to new heights. It also suggests that poetry is a force of nature, like the wind that shakes the leaves and spreads the seeds.

The next few lines describe the speaker's own experience with poetry. She says that it "has saved my life," and that it has "made me a better person." This is a powerful statement, as it suggests that poetry has the power to transform us on a deep level. It also suggests that poetry is not just a form of entertainment or intellectual exercise, but a tool for personal growth and self-discovery.

The poem then returns to the imagery of the fall season, with its "crisp air" and "frosty mornings." This imagery is used to suggest that poetry is like the fall season itself, a time of change and transformation. The use of sensory details, such as the crisp air and frosty mornings, helps to create a vivid and immersive experience for the reader.

The final lines of the poem are perhaps the most powerful. The speaker says that poetry is "the marengo of the world," a phrase that is both mysterious and evocative. Marengo is a type of chicken dish, but in this context, it seems to suggest something more profound. Perhaps it is a metaphor for the richness and complexity of the world, or the way that poetry can nourish and sustain us.

Overall, Poetry Marengo is a masterpiece of poetry that captures the essence of the fall season and the power of poetry to transform our lives. The imagery and language used in this poem are evocative and powerful, creating a vivid and immersive experience for the reader. Mary Oliver was a master of her craft, and this poem is a testament to her skill and artistry.

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