January 6th, 2010
Louis MacNiece’s poem, The Cyclist, is split into three stanzas, each of which has its own ideas/themes. The poem speaks of a cyclist biking on a hot summer’s day and it looks at the characteristics of a typical summer’s day. The poet looks at the theme of freedom as well as the swiftness and short-lived joy of youth.
The cyclist is depicted as cycling quickly and freely. The opening word, freewheeling, highlights the theme of freedom and speed which recurs throughout the poem. The phrase “unpassing horse” used in the first line also emphasizes on the speed of the cyclist. Everything seems to be still in comparison to the sheer speed of the cyclist.
The theme of freedom is also carried on to the second sentence where child is seen “blazoned in chalk the wind he causes in passing,” where chalk is referring to the chalkboard used in schools. The chalk evokes and emphasizes the feeling of joy in the boy as he has gone from burdensome education to the happiness of summer vacation.
The phrase, “between the horizons brackets” gives the text a metaphorical meaning of the time. The following line says, “The main sentence is to be picked up later but these five minutes are all to-day summer.” The poet notes that the period, “five minutes,” in which the child is enjoying the summer is short and soon he will be back in school again. The poet draws upon the theme of enjoying ones childhood whilst it lasts.
The phrases, “one with the sky,” and “grasps the summer” bring about a strong connection between the cyclist and nature. We feel as if the cyclist is one with nature and that it is his true home. This sense adds to the joy we feel the cyclist. Yet he “grasps the summer,” which hints to the reader that the child is desperate to keep hold of summer and his period of recreation.
The second stanza explicitly illustrates and brings to life the heat of the summer. “Glaring, glaring, glaring...