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Summer Farm

Explore the ways in which Normal MacCaig memorably depicts the

relationship between man and nature in Summer Farm.
Summer Farm is an intensely metaphysical poem about the poet
exploring the depths of his mind and wondering about his identity and
where he comes from. In the first two stanzas, there is a clear
connection to nature as the poet describes ordinary occurrences in a
farm, however as this soon transcends to a much more complicated,
metaphysical poem that has a deep, philosophical perspective. The
poem can be interpreted to be about the individual; our identity and
place in the world. The poet muses upon whether a sense of
individuality is actually possible, or whether we are simply copies of
our parents, and our parents parents. We as humans strive for
independence and originality, yet there is no escaping the genetic ties
linking us to our past. The poet lies within the depths of his mind,
probably in his happy place as his mothers family lived in the rural
area, which is reflected in this story. Everything described in the story
is part of his mind, with perhaps every animal representing a different
aspect of his mind. The poet always discusses the concept of having
layers and layers of dreams, like how the mind is made up of layers
and layers. He is trying to find himself and discover who he is, and
who he is in relation to the world around him. In this poem, the poet
memorably depicts the relationship between man and nature by using
strong imagery and metaphors.
The poem has four, evenly distributed stanzas, each with an
ABAB rhyme scheme. The couplets are used to make the poem seem
very cheery and lively, and give a sense of joy and happiness that one
would experience in his happy place. The four lines in each stanza
imply a sense of organisation in the thoughts of the poet before the
reader, giving the impression that the poet is very calm and clear as
one would have these organised thoughts when there is nothing to
worry about. There is a very obvious use of vowels in the poem, for
examples words like rhyming couplets like grass and glass, shines
and lines etc. The poet uses this to slow down the pace at which the
reader reads through the poem. It portrays the slow, relaxed thinking
that the poet has as well as implied a lack of stress, as stress is
normally associated with fast, muddled thinking.
At the very start of the poem, the poet uses a simile and
oxymoron. Straws like tame lightnings. The phrase tame lightnings is
an oxymoron, which depicts the conflicting and contrasting thoughts
which plague his mind. Straws exude a sense of domesticity, nature
and comfort, but at the same time are as dangerous as lightning. This
depicts the poet thought which move rapidly and abruptly, much like
lightning does, and that his thoughts move like zigzags. They are tame
because the decisions he makes are not dangerous in that they will not

bring any threat to his life physically, unlike lightning, but his thoughts
can ultimately affect his life forever, especially his mental state of
mind. This description of straws like tame lightnings is indeed rather
strange, and foreshadows the fact that the world he is about to
describe to the reader is surreal and are all make-believe, lying in the
depths of his mind. The simile green as glass in the second line
represents the impurities in the poets mind, as glass is not usually
green, and the green is thought to have come from some sort of
pollution or muck, which again implies that the poets mind is muddled
and polluted. However, the next line is a contradicting one. The water
in the horse trough shines. The word shines is an obvious contrast to
the previous description of the green glass, as the reader is made to
picture clear, pure water scintillating under the sunlight. However, the
word green is actually used to describe the water, making it seem
murky and unclear, reflecting the uncertainty of the poets future. The
line Nine ducks go wobbling by in two straight lines depicts the
conformity and strict behavior that the poet possesses in times of
stress. The fact that there are nine ducks that are supposed to go in
two lines, with an odd one out, symbolize the disharmony and
uncertainty in the poets mind. The word wobble also gives a sense of
conflict and indecision, like the ninth duck is unsure which line to
A hen stares at nothing with one eye/ then picks it up. Out of an
empty sky. The hen could be portraying the insane, illogical part of the
poets mind, like the opposite of his conscience. The fact that it only
has one eye gives the impression of it being sinister and scary. The fact
that is stares at nothing gives an even more frightening picture, as we
wonder what we have in the recesses of our mind. The one eye could
also mean that the poet has a one-sided view of things, and he cannot
see the whole picture therefore nothing makes sense. Still, he gropes
around at nothing to find a source of meaning and inspiration. The
caesura at the end of the verb then picks it up creates a dramatic
pause to allow what the chicken has done to sink in for the reader,
creating a deeper sense of insanity, making the reader feel afraid. We
can relate the verb stares at nothing to mental patients, as they are
so deep within the recesses of their minds that they often stare out at
nothing with blank expressions. The author then goes on to say out of
an empty sky, which indicates a sense of surrealism as it is impossible
to take things out of something that is already empty.
A swallow falls and, flickering through the barn, dives up again
into the dizzy blue The swallow is used to exemplify the beauty of
nature itself and the beauty of the well-structured swallow that it has
the ability to do such beautiful things in flight such as flickering
through the barn. The swallow is a figment of the poets imagination,
demonstrating how observant the poet is that it was able to be able to
replay the birds movements in his head. It is here once again that we

see that in fact that poet is actually a very brilliant, although perhaps
keeping his thoughts to himself. Perhaps he is a little insane as well.
The fact that the swallow dives up into a blue sky represents calmness,
something that the poet is experiencing at the current moment. The
fact that it is so vast that it makes one dizzy indicates the open mind of
the poet, as one usually has deep down inside you.