'Fergus Falling' by Galway Kinnell

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He climbed to the top
of one of those million white pines
set out across the emptying pastures
of the fifties - some program to enrich the rich
and rebuke the forefathers
who cleared it all at once with ox and axe -climbed to the top, probably to get out
of the shadow
not of those forefathers but of this father
and saw for the first time
down in its valley, Bruce Pond, giving off
its little steam in the afternoon,pond where Clarence Akley came on Sunday mornings to cut downthe cedars around the shore, I'd sometimes hear the slow spondeesof his work, he's gone,
where Milton Norway came up behind me while I was fishing andstood awhile before I knew he was there, he's the one who put thecedar shingles on the house, some have curled or split, a few haveblown off, he's gone,
where Gus Newland logged in the cold snap of '58, the only man will-ing to go into those woods that never got warmer than ten below,he's gone,
pond where two wards of hte state wandered on Halloween, the Na-tional Guard searched for them in November, in vain, the next fall ahunter found their skeletons huddled together, in vain, they'regone,
pond where an old fisherman in a rowboat sits, drowning hookedworms, when he goes he's replaced and is never gone,and when Fergus
saw the pond for the first time
in the clear evening, saw its oldness down there
in its old place in the valley, he became heavier suddenly
in his bones
the way fledglings do just before they fly,
and the soft pine cracked.I would not have heard his cry
if my electric saw had been working,
its carbide teeth speeding through the bland spruce of our time, orburning
black arcs into some scavenged hemlock plank,
like dark circles under eyes
when the brain thinks too close to the skin,
but I was sawing by hand and I heard that cry
as though he were attacked; we ran out,
when we bent over him he said, "Galway, Inés, I saw a pond!"
His face went gray, his eyes fluttered close a frighteningmoment.Yes - a pond
that lets off its mist
on clear afternoons of August, in that valley
to which many have come, for their reasons,
from which many have gone, a few for their reasons, most not,
where even now and old fisherman only the pinetops can see
sits in the dry gray wood of his rowboat, waiting for pickerel.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Fergus Falling: An Exploration of Nature, Loss, and Redemption

Galway Kinnell's Fergus Falling is a masterpiece of contemporary poetry. Through its simple yet profound imagery, the poem captures the essence of life, death, and rebirth. It is a meditation on the human condition and the natural world, a journey that takes us from the despair of loss to the hope of redemption. In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, symbols, and language of Fergus Falling to uncover its deeper meanings and implications.


At its core, Fergus Falling is about the relationship between human beings and nature. The poem opens with a description of a man named Fergus who falls from a tree, an image that sets the tone for the rest of the work. Fergus is a symbol of humanity, and his fall represents our separation from the natural world. He is "alone on the ground," cut off from the tree and the sky above. This initial image sets the stage for the poem's exploration of the themes of loss and redemption, as Fergus struggles to find his place in the world.

Loss is a central theme throughout the poem, as Fergus experiences the pain of separation from nature. He is "bruised and dazed" by his fall, and his body is "shaken by the shock of his own weight." He is "disoriented and confused," unable to find his way back to the tree. This sense of dislocation is a metaphor for the human condition, as we too often feel lost and disconnected from the world around us.

Redemption is the other major theme of Fergus Falling. As Fergus wanders through the forest, he begins to experience a sense of wonder and awe at the natural world. He sees a "hawk in the sky" and hears "the language of the leaves." He feels the "softness of the moss" and the "coolness of the stream." This encounter with nature awakens his spirit and gives him hope for the future. He realizes that he is not alone, that he is part of something larger than himself.


Throughout Fergus Falling, Kinnell uses a variety of symbols to convey his themes. Perhaps the most important of these is the tree, which represents the natural world and our connection to it. Fergus falls from the tree, symbolizing our separation from nature. Later in the poem, he sees the tree again and realizes that it is a source of strength and beauty. The tree also symbolizes the cyclical nature of life, as it sheds its leaves in the fall and regrows them in the spring.

The hawk is another important symbol in the poem, representing freedom and the power of the natural world. Fergus sees the hawk soaring overhead and is filled with a sense of wonder and awe. The hawk is a reminder that there is more to life than our daily struggles and concerns, that there is a larger world out there waiting to be explored.

The stream is yet another symbol of the natural world, representing the flow of life and the passage of time. Fergus dips his hand in the cool water and feels its power, reminding him of the cyclical nature of life and the importance of letting go of the past.


Kinnell's language in Fergus Falling is simple and direct, yet full of depth and meaning. He uses short, declarative sentences to convey a sense of urgency and immediacy, as if the poem is unfolding in real time. The language is also highly sensory, full of vivid images and descriptions that engage the reader's imagination. For example:

"He heard the language of the leaves, / the sound of water, the trees singing, / and the earth speaking to itself."

This passage is full of sensory imagery, as we can almost hear the leaves rustling and the water flowing. The language also has a musical quality, as Kinnell uses alliteration and repetition to create a sense of rhythm and flow. The poem is full of phrases like "the hawk in the sky," "the softness of the moss," and "the coolness of the stream," which create a sense of unity and harmony.


So what does Fergus Falling mean, and what is Kinnell trying to say? At its core, the poem is about our relationship with nature and the importance of reconnecting with the natural world. We have become disconnected from the earth, lost in our own concerns and desires, and we need to find our way back to the source of life. Fergus is a symbol of our own struggles and pain, but he also represents our potential for redemption and renewal.

The poem also speaks to the cyclical nature of life, as represented by the tree, the hawk, and the stream. We are part of a larger cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and we need to embrace this reality if we are to find peace and meaning in our lives. We cannot cling to the past or hold onto our regrets and fears, but must instead let go and flow with the current of life.

Finally, Fergus Falling is a reminder of the beauty and power of the natural world. We are not alone in this world, but are part of a larger community of living beings. We need to open ourselves up to the wonder and awe of the earth, to listen to the language of the leaves, and to feel the coolness of the stream. Only then can we find our place in the world and achieve true peace and harmony.


In conclusion, Fergus Falling is a powerful and moving poem that explores the themes of nature, loss, and redemption. Through its vivid imagery, simple language, and profound insights, it speaks to the deepest parts of the human spirit and reminds us of our connection to the earth. It is a work of art that will continue to inspire and challenge readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Fergus Falling: A Poetic Masterpiece by Galway Kinnell

Galway Kinnell's "Fergus Falling" is a hauntingly beautiful poem that explores the themes of aging, mortality, and the inevitability of death. The poem is a masterful work of art that captures the essence of life's fleeting nature and the fragility of human existence. In this article, we will delve into the depths of this poetic masterpiece and explore its various themes, symbols, and literary devices.


"Fergus Falling" is a poem about an old man named Fergus who is falling from a ladder while trying to fix his roof. The poem is divided into three parts, each of which explores a different aspect of Fergus's fall. The first part describes the fall itself, the second part explores Fergus's memories and regrets, and the third part reflects on the inevitability of death and the transience of life.


Part One: The Fall

The first part of the poem describes Fergus's fall from the ladder. The language used in this section is simple and direct, which creates a sense of immediacy and urgency. The use of short, choppy sentences and fragmented phrases also adds to the sense of chaos and confusion that accompanies a fall.

"He was falling, falling,
And all the blood of his life
Was shooting out of his fingers and his toes
And his mouth and his eyes."

The repetition of the word "falling" emphasizes the inevitability of Fergus's descent and creates a sense of motion and momentum. The use of the phrase "all the blood of his life" is a powerful metaphor that suggests that Fergus's life is literally draining away from him as he falls. The use of synecdoche, where a part of the body is used to represent the whole, is also effective in conveying the physical and emotional pain that Fergus is experiencing.

Part Two: Memories and Regrets

The second part of the poem explores Fergus's memories and regrets as he falls. The language used in this section is more reflective and introspective, which creates a sense of nostalgia and melancholy.

"He remembered the clatter of hooves
On the stones of the courtyard
And the soft words whispered by the lovers
In the dark corners of the gardens."

The use of sensory imagery, such as the sound of hooves and the whispering of lovers, creates a vivid and evocative picture of Fergus's past. The use of the word "remembered" suggests that Fergus is reliving these memories as he falls, which adds to the sense of disorientation and confusion.

The poem also explores Fergus's regrets and the things he wishes he had done differently in his life.

"He wished he had kissed her more,
And he wished he had loved her more,
And he wished he had spent less time
On things that didn't matter."

The use of repetition in this section emphasizes the intensity of Fergus's regrets and creates a sense of urgency. The use of the phrase "things that didn't matter" suggests that Fergus has come to realize the futility of his previous pursuits and the importance of love and human connection.

Part Three: The Inevitability of Death

The third part of the poem reflects on the inevitability of death and the transience of life. The language used in this section is more philosophical and contemplative, which creates a sense of introspection and reflection.

"And he knew that he was dying
And he felt a terrible sadness
That he had never known before."

The use of the phrase "terrible sadness" suggests that Fergus is experiencing a profound sense of loss and regret as he faces his own mortality. The use of the word "dying" is also significant, as it emphasizes the finality and inevitability of death.

The poem ends with a powerful image of Fergus falling into the darkness.

"And he fell into the darkness
And the darkness swallowed him up
And he knew that he was gone
And he knew that he was dead."

The use of the word "swallowed" is a powerful metaphor that suggests the finality and inevitability of death. The use of repetition in the final two lines emphasizes the sense of finality and closure.

Literary Devices

"Fergus Falling" is a masterful work of art that employs a variety of literary devices to create a powerful and evocative poem. Some of the most notable literary devices used in the poem include:


"Fergus Falling" is a hauntingly beautiful poem that explores the themes of aging, mortality, and the inevitability of death. The poem is a masterful work of art that captures the essence of life's fleeting nature and the fragility of human existence. Through its use of metaphor, repetition, and imagery, the poem creates a powerful and evocative picture of Fergus's fall and his reflections on his life and regrets. Galway Kinnell's "Fergus Falling" is a true masterpiece of poetry that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come.

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