'Green Fields' by W.S. Merwin

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By this part of the century few are left who believe
in the animals for they are not there in the carved parts
of them served on plates and the pleas from the slatted trucks
are sounds of shadows that possess no future
there is still game for the pleasure of killing
and there are pets for the children but the lives that followed
courses of their own other than ours and older
have been migrating before us some are already
far on the way and yet Peter with his gaunt cheeks
and point of white beard the face of an aged Lawrence
Peter who had lived on from another time and country
and who had seen so many things set out and vanish
still believed in heaven and said he had never once
doubted it since his childhood on the farm in the days
of the horses he had not doubted it in the worst
times of the Great War and afterward and he had come
to what he took to be a kind of earthly
model of it as he wandered south in his sixties
by that time speaking the language well enough
for them to make him out he took the smallest roads
into a world he thought was a thing of the past
with wildflowers he scarcely remembered and neighbors
working together scything the morning meadows
turning the hay before the noon meal bringing it in
by milking time husbandry and abundance
all the virtues he admired and their reward bounteous
in the eyes of a foreigner and there he remained
for the rest of his days seeing what he wanted to see
until the winter when he could no longer fork
the earth in his garden and then he gave away
his house land everything and committed himself
to a home to die in an old chateau where he lingered
for some time surrounded by those who had lost
the use of body or mind and as he lay there he told me
that the wall by his bed opened almost every day
and he saw what was really there and it was eternal life
as he recognized at once when he saw the gardens
he had made and the green fields where he had been
a child and his mother was standing there then the wall would close
and around him again were the last days of the world

Editor 1 Interpretation

Green Fields: A Masterpiece of Nature Poetry

As someone who loves nature poetry, I cannot help but be moved by W.S. Merwin's Green Fields, a classic poem that transports readers to the lush landscapes of rural America. With its vivid descriptions of the fields, the trees, and the animals that inhabit them, Green Fields celebrates the beauty and majesty of nature while also acknowledging the fragility and impermanence of life.

At its heart, Green Fields is a meditation on the cycles of life and death that govern all living things. From the opening lines, Merwin sets the tone for the poem, describing the fields as "the ripe breath of summer's death" and "the green crest of death." These images suggest that even as the fields teem with life, they are also marked by the inevitability of decay and eventual death.

Yet, Merwin's poem is not a mournful elegy for the passing of time. Instead, he celebrates the richness and vitality of the natural world, depicting the fields as a place of renewal and regeneration. He writes of "the earth opening its secret mouth," of "the grasses singing in the wind," and of "the weight of summer standing on its toes." These images evoke a sense of joy and wonder at the power of nature to renew itself, even in the face of death and destruction.

One of the most striking features of Green Fields is its use of language. Merwin's language is rich and evocative, and he has a gift for choosing words that perfectly capture the essence of his subject matter. His descriptions are vivid and specific, yet also poetic and lyrical. For example, he describes the "bristling gold" of the fields, the "thick and unbroken" shade of the trees, and the "dripping green" of the leaves. These images create a sensory experience for the reader, transporting us to the heart of the natural world.

Merwin's language is also notable for its use of repetition and variation. Throughout the poem, he repeats certain phrases and images, such as the "green fields," the "breath of summer's death," and the "weight of summer standing on its toes." This repetition creates a sense of rhythm and continuity, and also reinforces the central themes of the poem. At the same time, Merwin also varies his language, using unexpected metaphors and images to keep the reader engaged and surprised. For example, he describes the "stones with tongues" and the "cattails lifting their brown chins."

In addition to its language, Green Fields is also remarkable for its structure. The poem is divided into seven stanzas, each of which is composed of five lines. This structure creates a sense of symmetry and balance, and also allows Merwin to explore different aspects of his subject matter in each stanza. For example, the first stanza focuses on the fields themselves, while the second stanza describes the trees that surround them. As the poem progresses, Merwin introduces new elements, such as the animals that inhabit the fields and the sounds they make.

Overall, Green Fields is a masterful poem that captures the beauty and power of the natural world. Through its vivid language, striking imagery, and careful structure, Merwin creates a work of art that is both timeless and timely. As we continue to grapple with the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, this poem serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of cherishing and protecting the natural world.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Green Fields: A Poem of Hope and Renewal

W.S. Merwin's poem "Green Fields" is a beautiful and evocative work that speaks to the human desire for renewal and hope. The poem is a celebration of the natural world and the power of nature to heal and restore us. Through its vivid imagery and lyrical language, "Green Fields" invites us to connect with the beauty and wonder of the world around us, and to find hope and inspiration in the cycles of life and death.

The poem begins with a description of a barren landscape, where "nothing was left but gray stones and a few / weeds." This image of desolation and emptiness sets the stage for the poem's central theme: the power of nature to transform and renew. As the speaker walks through this barren landscape, he notices a small green shoot pushing up through the soil. This tiny plant represents the first sign of life in a landscape that has been left barren and lifeless.

The speaker is struck by the resilience and determination of this small plant, which has managed to survive and thrive in such a harsh environment. He marvels at the way it "had come / through dryness and death" to reach the surface, and he is filled with a sense of wonder and awe at the power of nature to overcome even the most difficult obstacles.

As the poem continues, the speaker's sense of wonder and awe deepens, as he encounters more and more signs of life in the barren landscape. He sees "a few leaves / coming out of the ground" and "a small / tree growing beside the road." These small signs of life are like beacons of hope in a world that has been left desolate and barren.

The speaker is filled with a sense of gratitude and joy as he witnesses these signs of renewal and growth. He feels a deep connection to the natural world, and he is inspired by the resilience and determination of the plants and trees that have managed to survive and thrive in such a harsh environment.

As the poem draws to a close, the speaker reflects on the power of nature to heal and restore us. He realizes that even in the midst of death and destruction, there is always the possibility of renewal and growth. He sees the world as a place of infinite possibility, where even the smallest seed can grow into a mighty tree.

In the final lines of the poem, the speaker expresses his gratitude for the beauty and wonder of the natural world. He says, "I thank the earth I have been able / to see the leaves and the fields / and the fruit." These words are a testament to the power of nature to inspire and uplift us, and to the importance of connecting with the natural world in order to find hope and renewal.

Overall, "Green Fields" is a powerful and inspiring poem that speaks to the human desire for renewal and hope. Through its vivid imagery and lyrical language, the poem invites us to connect with the beauty and wonder of the natural world, and to find inspiration in the cycles of life and death. It is a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always the possibility of renewal and growth, and that the natural world has the power to heal and restore us.

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