Gillian Clarke- The Field Mouse
In the first verse, the hay cutting is depicted in a positive light: the hay is cut "Down at the end of the meadow, / far from the radio's terrible news". The distance from the "terrible news" leads us to expect a peaceful description of a harmless farming activity exempt from the violence happening in the outside world. The opening line of the poem sets up this expectation: "Summer, and the long grass is a snare drum". There are some images inserted into the scene here that add a subtle feeling of discomfort or unease, the first of which is the sound of the "jets" in line 2. It is a sound one hears particularly if you live in Wales, the Lake District or Norfolk and Suffolk. The next is, of course, the "terrible news" of the radio, which, although we are removed from it, is still mentioned and therefore forms part of an ominous backdrop, along with the jets, to the hay cutting. The image of the relentless hay cutting is also unsettling: "...All afternoon / its wave breaks before the tractor blade". The blade of the tractor will be shown to be the instrument of death later on in the poem.Lastly we hear about the neighbour who is spreading lime over his fields. Here the neighbour is unintentionally "drifting our land / with a chance gift of sweetness". The lime he spreads over his fields inadvertently drifts to adjacent land and so the poet's land also benefits. Lime reduces the acidity of the soil, hence the use of the phrase "gift of sweetness".
The poem focuses now on the unforeseen damage to life that results in the hay cutting. We are made to experience the activity of hay cutting from another perspective as the first line talks of the "killed flowers". The damage done is extended to include the creatures of the field. Our first image of the subject in the poem's title, the field mouse, is one that evokes pity. Clarke uses synecdoche and metaphor to create the image of the dying mouse. The child's hands have become a...
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