Summer Farm, Norman MacCaig
Norman MacCaig was born in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, in 1910, and spent much of his life in this and other Scottish cities until his death in 1996. His family came from the quiet countryside and this background is reflected in ‘Summer Farm’. This poem is characteristically about nature and personal reflection. It begins with simple descriptions of the natural world and the farmland that he sees around him. As the poem progresses from the concrete (what we know and believe to be real) to the abstract (that which we are unsure of, appears to be random, cannot be explained easily), he finds himself lying in the grass looking at the farm and becomes aware of the many generations and many farms that have preceded this one. In the final stanza he is fully immersed in nature. The metaphysical thoughts that he initially fears; ‘afraid of where thought might take me (after all these are not easy questions),’ gradually emerge and he begins to consider the larger questions of existence; who is he, where did he come from and what is his place in the world: ‘Self under self, a pile of selves’ gives us the idea of uncovering layers of self’ (similar to a Russian doll) suggesting that he considers his inner self or true self as something different to his outer self; that which he projects to the world. ‘Farm within farm’ suggests that he is only one in a sequence of people connected with this particular place. Imagery is mostly concerned with his detailed descriptions of nature. ‘Straws like tame lightnings’ indicate patterns (crooked) in nature and compare the grass to something wild and dangerous. Odd descriptions such as this and ‘green as glass’ reveal everyday images in a different way. His own close analysis of such things brings about a bigger realization (compare with The Cockroach and Hunting Snake) ‘The water…shines’ is another detailed description of nature...
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