“The Cyclist” poetry commentary
“The Cyclist” is a poem by Louis MacNeice which romanticizes the fleeting joys of childhood. These joys are emphasised through imagery of summer – be it activities, food, the beach, a bicycle ride, various techniques such as juxtaposition and enjambment are used to evoke fond memories from the reader. MacNeice’s poem is set in the southwest of England, on a hill with a chalk horse carved into it. It is during the height of summer, when the grasshoppers are buzzing and the children are playing outside. The character is a boy or a group of boys, and they are riding bicycles down a hill near to the chalk horse. The structure of the poem is quite disjointed, with only five sentences throughout three stanzas. Enjambment is used extensively to further reinforce the idea of a out of breath child, as by not ending each line with a full stop the poet is enticing the reader to continue and hear what this breathless child has to say. The use of time in “The Cyclist” is used to reinforce the notion that the pleasures of summer are temporary. In the first stanza, for example, on line 7, “but these five minutes” is a reference to both the comparatively short time of childhood and the rapid rush down the hill during summer. Time is again mentioned in line 24 (“For ten seconds more”) to remind the reader that time is ever-present, and that ageing is impossible to avoid for a child as adulthood draws every closer (emphasised in the decrease of time from five minutes to ten seconds). In general, the speaker in “The Cyclist” appears to be speaking as a child; he overuses and ‘accidentally’ mixes up words. For instance, on line 4 the speaker says “In the heat of the handlebars he grasps the summer”. This is plainly a child’s error, and it makes no sense as it is – it should be ‘heat of the summer he grasps the handlebars’. Another example of this is during the last stanza, where the speaker is describing various ways to enjoy the summer, he states...
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