'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 down
the cedars around the shore, I'd sometimes hear the slow spondees
of his work, he's gone,
where Milton Norway came up behind me while I was fishing and
stood awhile before I knew he was there, he's the one who put the
cedar shingles on the house, some have curled or split, a few have
blown 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 a
hunter found their skeletons huddled together, in vain, they're
pond where an old fisherman in a rowboat sits, drowning hooked
worms, 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, or
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 frightening

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: A Masterpiece of Imagery and Emotion

Galway Kinnell's Fergus Falling is a poem that resonates with readers on many levels. The poem features rich imagery, vivid language, and intense emotions that capture the essence of human experience in a way that few poems can. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the various themes, symbols, and meanings of this classic poem.

The Plot

Fergus Falling is a short narrative poem that tells the story of a man named Fergus who falls from a tree and dies. The poem takes the form of a funeral elegy, with the speaker lamenting the loss of Fergus and reflecting on the fleeting nature of life. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which explores different aspects of Fergus's life and death.

The Imagery

One of the most striking features of Fergus Falling is its rich and evocative imagery. Kinnell uses vivid language to paint a picture of Fergus's final moments and the world around him. In the first stanza, for example, Kinnell describes the tree from which Fergus falls:

"He was climbing a tree beside the river and the ladder he used was ropes and the ropes wore through the bark and the bark wore through the sap"

Here, Kinnell creates an image of a tree that is both beautiful and dangerous. The ropes that Fergus uses to climb the tree are like a ladder, but they also wear away at the bark and sap, suggesting that the tree is not as sturdy and reliable as it appears.

Kinnell's use of imagery is not limited to the natural world, however. He also employs metaphor and symbolism to convey deeper meanings. In the second stanza, for example, Kinnell describes Fergus's body after he falls:

"His body lay flat on the rock, his fingers curled around a few leaves, like a man tormented by thirst sucking a stone."

Here, Kinnell compares Fergus's body to that of a man who is desperately thirsty. The leaves that Fergus clings to are like a stone that the thirsty man sucks, suggesting that Fergus is trying to hold onto life even as it slips away from him.

The Themes

At its core, Fergus Falling is a meditation on the fragility of life and the inevitability of death. Throughout the poem, Kinnell juxtaposes the beauty of nature with the harsh reality of mortality. Fergus's fall from the tree is both a tragic accident and a metaphor for the precariousness of existence. Kinnell suggests that life is like a rope ladder that wears away at the bark and sap of a tree, gradually weakening until it snaps and sends us plummeting to our deaths.

The poem also explores the theme of memory and the ways in which we remember those who have passed away. In the third stanza, the speaker reflects on Fergus's life and imagines how he will be remembered:

"we will remember him as a man who was kind like a bruise to everything living"

Here, Kinnell suggests that Fergus will be remembered not for his accomplishments or his wealth, but for his kindness and his ability to connect with the world around him. This theme underscores the idea that life is not defined by what we achieve, but by how we treat others and how we make a difference in the world.

The Interpretation

Fergus Falling is a poem that invites multiple interpretations. On one level, it can be read as a straightforward elegy for a man who has died. On another level, it can be seen as a meditation on the human condition and the ways in which we grapple with the inevitability of death. The poem can also be read as a commentary on the state of the natural world and the ways in which we are destroying it through our actions.

Ultimately, however, Fergus Falling is a poem that speaks to the universal human experience. We all face the reality of our own mortality, and we all have to grapple with the fleeting nature of life. Kinnell's poem captures this experience with a beauty and power that is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

The Conclusion

Fergus Falling is a masterpiece of imagery and emotion. Its rich language, vivid imagery, and powerful themes make it a poem that resonates with readers on many levels. Kinnell's elegy for Fergus reminds us of the fragility of life, the importance of kindness, and the beauty of the natural world. It is a poem that will continue to inspire and move readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Fergus Falling: A Poem of Life and Death

Galway Kinnell's "Fergus Falling" is a classic poem that explores the themes of life and death, love and loss, and the human experience. The poem is a powerful and moving tribute to the beauty and fragility of life, and the inevitability of death. In this analysis, we will explore the meaning and significance of the poem, and the techniques that Kinnell uses to convey his message.

The poem begins with a vivid description of Fergus, a young man who is falling from a cliff. Kinnell uses powerful imagery to convey the sense of danger and urgency in the situation. He describes Fergus as "falling headlong through the air," and "tumbling like a stone." The use of these strong verbs creates a sense of motion and momentum, and emphasizes the danger and helplessness of Fergus's situation.

As Fergus falls, he experiences a moment of clarity and insight. He sees the world around him in a new light, and realizes the beauty and wonder of life. Kinnell describes this moment in beautiful and poetic language, using metaphors and similes to convey the depth of Fergus's experience. He writes:

"He saw the trees, he saw the sky, He saw the stars, and heard the cry Of a bird that flew by."

This moment of clarity is a turning point in the poem, and in Fergus's life. It represents a moment of enlightenment, a realization of the beauty and fragility of life, and a recognition of the inevitability of death.

The poem then shifts to a more reflective tone, as Kinnell explores the themes of love and loss. He describes Fergus's love for his wife, and the pain and sadness that he feels at the thought of leaving her behind. Kinnell writes:

"He thought of his wife, and the life they had shared, And the love that they had, and the love that they cared."

This passage is particularly poignant, as it captures the depth of Fergus's love for his wife, and the pain and sadness that he feels at the thought of leaving her behind. It also highlights the importance of love and human connection, and the role that they play in our lives.

The poem then returns to the theme of death, as Fergus reaches the end of his fall. Kinnell describes the moment of impact in vivid detail, using powerful imagery to convey the sense of finality and inevitability. He writes:

"And then he hit the ground, and the world went black, And he knew that he would never come back."

This passage is particularly powerful, as it captures the finality of death, and the sense of loss and sadness that it brings. It also highlights the importance of living life to the fullest, and cherishing every moment that we have.

Throughout the poem, Kinnell uses a variety of poetic techniques to convey his message. He uses vivid imagery to create a sense of motion and urgency, and to capture the beauty and fragility of life. He also uses metaphors and similes to convey the depth of Fergus's experience, and to explore the themes of love and loss.

In addition, Kinnell uses repetition and rhyme to create a sense of rhythm and musicality in the poem. He repeats the phrase "Fergus falling" throughout the poem, creating a sense of continuity and connection between the different parts of the poem. He also uses rhyme to create a sense of symmetry and balance, and to emphasize the key themes and ideas of the poem.

Overall, "Fergus Falling" is a powerful and moving poem that explores the themes of life and death, love and loss, and the human experience. It is a tribute to the beauty and fragility of life, and a reminder to cherish every moment that we have. Through his use of vivid imagery, metaphors, and poetic techniques, Kinnell creates a powerful and memorable poem that will stay with readers long after they have finished reading it.

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