'Marengo' by Mary Oliver

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Out 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: A Poem of Wonder and Reflection by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is one of the most acclaimed poets of our time, and her works have gained a loyal following for their profound insights and lyrical beauty. Her poem, Marengo, is a perfect example of her artistry, and it offers a fascinating exploration of nature, time, and memory. In this essay, we will examine the poem in detail and offer a literary interpretation of its key themes and symbols.

The Poem

Before we begin our analysis, let's first take a look at the poem itself:

by Mary Oliver

White chickens in the field,
clucking and strutting.
Like thick snow they vanish
among the green blades,
and the sound of their going
is soft, white.

Like a breath,
the marengo rises
out of the dark water
and spreads its wings,
and flies,
and is gone.

Nothing is so delicate
or so finely hinged
as the wings of the marengo
as it flies,
as it reaches
over the water
and catches
the light.

At first glance, the poem seems simple and straightforward, but upon closer examination, it reveals a rich world of meaning and symbolism. Let's dive in and explore its depths.



One of the most prominent themes in Marengo is nature. Oliver is known for her deep love and appreciation of the natural world, and this poem is no exception. The white chickens in the field, the green blades of grass, and the dark water all evoke a sense of natural beauty and tranquility. Oliver's use of imagery is masterful, and the poem transports the reader to a serene and idyllic landscape.

Time and Memory

Another significant theme in Marengo is time and memory. The poem opens with a scene of white chickens in a field, but they quickly vanish "like thick snow" among the green blades. This image is a metaphor for the fleeting nature of time and the ephemeral quality of memory. The sound of the chickens' going is "soft, white," suggesting that memories, like snow, can be easily lost and forgotten.

The marengo, in contrast, is a symbol of something that endures beyond time and memory. It rises "out of the dark water and spreads its wings" before flying away. The image of the marengo catching the light is a metaphor for the way memories can be preserved and cherished, even as they fade over time. The marengo's wings are "delicate" and "finely hinged," suggesting that memories can be fragile and easily lost, but they are also beautiful and worth preserving.

Wonder and Reflection

Finally, Marengo is a poem that inspires wonder and reflection. Oliver's language is simple and unadorned, but it has a powerful emotional impact. The image of the marengo rising out of the water and flying away is a moment of pure beauty and awe. The poem invites the reader to contemplate the natural world and to reflect on the fleeting nature of time and memory.


In conclusion, Mary Oliver's Marengo is a beautiful and thought-provoking poem that explores themes of nature, time, and memory. Through her masterful use of imagery and language, Oliver invites the reader to contemplate the beauty and transience of life. Marengo is a tribute to the power of poetry to inspire wonder and reflection, and it is a testament to Oliver's artistry and vision.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Marengo: A Poem of Nature's Majesty

Mary Oliver's Marengo is a poem that captures the essence of nature's majesty. It is a poem that takes us on a journey through the wilderness, where we witness the beauty and power of the natural world. The poem is a celebration of the wild, and it reminds us of the importance of preserving our natural habitats.

The poem begins with a description of the landscape. The speaker tells us that she is standing on a hill, looking out over the land. She describes the hills and valleys, the fields and forests, and the rivers and streams that flow through the land. The imagery is vivid and evocative, and it transports us to this wild and untamed place.

As the poem progresses, the speaker begins to describe the animals that inhabit this land. She tells us about the deer that roam the forests, the hawks that soar through the sky, and the fish that swim in the rivers. The animals are described in detail, and we can almost see them in our minds' eye.

But it is the description of the horse that is the most powerful. The speaker tells us about Marengo, a wild stallion that roams the land. She describes his strength and power, his beauty and grace. She tells us that he is a creature of the wild, and that he belongs to this land.

The description of Marengo is a metaphor for the natural world. Like the horse, nature is wild and untamed. It is powerful and beautiful, and it belongs to itself. The poem reminds us that we are not the masters of nature, but rather its stewards. We must respect and protect the natural world, for it is a precious and fragile thing.

The poem also touches on the theme of freedom. Marengo is a symbol of freedom, of the wild and untamed spirit that exists within us all. The poem reminds us that we must strive to be free, to live our lives on our own terms, and to follow our own path.

The language of the poem is simple and direct, yet it is also lyrical and poetic. The imagery is vivid and evocative, and it transports us to this wild and untamed place. The poem is a celebration of the natural world, and it reminds us of the beauty and power that exists all around us.

In conclusion, Marengo is a poem that celebrates the majesty of nature. It reminds us of the importance of preserving our natural habitats, and it encourages us to live our lives with freedom and purpose. The poem is a powerful reminder of the beauty and power that exists all around us, and it is a call to action for all of us to protect and preserve the natural world.

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