Are you looking for a poem analysis of Wild Geese by Mary Oliver? Great! We have the best Wild Geese analysis you are going to find anywhere!
Wild Geese first appeared in Mary Olivers’ collection of poems Dream Works published in 1986. It was also the title of a 2004 published volume of Mary Olivers’ poems.
The poem suggests we unburden ourselves of society’s demands so that we can regain our childhood wonder of nature. Our Wild Geese analysis will lead you line by line through the poem.
Wild Geese Analysis: Line by Line
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
Any Wild Geese analysis should ask the following questions: What does it mean you don’t have to be good? Should we all want to be good? Why would someone tell you that you don’t need to be good?
Well, often we are told in life that if we are good, we will get a reward. If we are good, our parents will buy us some candy. If we are good, God will let us into heaven. If we play by society’s rules, society will protect us and reward us.
We often see the world in moral terms. We tend to feel bad if we get something for nothing. There is a sense that we only deserve a reward if we’ve been good.
But here Mary Oliver is suggesting in her poem Wild Geese that for some rewards you don’t need to be good. When it comes to nature, nature works differently. It rewards differently. You don’t have to get on your knees and pray to God. These rewards come to us regardless of whether we’ve been good or not.
On a deeper level, think about how people often feel bad about something. They feel bad about their sexuality or their selfishness or their personal failures. Mary Oliver could be saying here, don’t worry about all that, let go of the guilt. There is a reward out there for you via nature that comes to everyone equally.
Any analysis of Wild Geese needs to ask this question, why should someone have to tell you to love what you already love? Notice Mary Oliver uses the word “let.” She is saying some people don’t let themselves love freely.
Why? Why would anyone not let themselves love freely? Maybe because society teaches us many rules, and in the context of those rules they no longer feel they can love freely. Think of Romeo and Juliet, look how society drove them apart.
So Mary Oliver is suggesting we need to go beyond these rules, and we need to try and get in touch with our real feelings. We have to go beyond the inhibitions that society has given us and get back to a more childlike innocence.
Often society is all about reforming nature, destroying nature, and controlling nature. We live almost entirely indoors. We work and go to school in air conditioned offices. Our lives have become sterile. Nature is different. It’s chaotic, unpredictable, dangerous, and even dirty. But beyond all this, it’s immensely beautiful.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on.
A poem analysis of Wild Geese by Mary Oliver should consider the following: At school, we might be worried about our status or what clique we belong to. At work, we might be worried about our salary and how many bills we pay. Yet, how real are these threats? It’s not as if our life we’re really in danger, is it?
When we look outside, away from our own tiny subjective world, we see that we’re actually part of something much bigger and grander. And when we see this, often our own problems, which felt so utterly important a little while ago, slip away.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
In other words, the poem, Wild Geese suggests nature is beautiful and breathtaking to behold. Nature isn’t about forethought, endless thinking, brooding, and stress. Nature just is what it is. In nature things just happen. Everything falls into place. Nature happens for the sheer joy of it—not because it’s been told it must do this or that. Not because it’s been told it should do this or that.
So Mary Oliver is asking us to take a look at this. To let go of all our feelings about society which produce guilt or stress, and to remember what the bigger picture is. We need to remember that as we, too, are a part of nature, our social world is not all there is to life.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Any Wild Geese analysis would have to note what a wonderful image this is, and a wonderful metaphor, as well. Is there anything more beautiful than flight? Is there anything that conjures the image of freedom more than flight? This is the primary metaphor in Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese.
In talking about “home” there’s a sense that our innate feelings are always with us. That is, at times we lose touch with our spontaneous feeling, but those feelings are still there. They’ve just become latent and hard to get at. Going home is going back to that stage in our life when we still looked upon the world with childish wonder. It’s being a child again, but in a bigger sense, seeing the entire world of nature as our real home.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
We think that the last four lines of Wild Geese sum up Mary Oliver’s poem better than any analysis ever could.
Whoever you are, even if you are lonely, feeling lost, look out into the larger world, that of nature. Recapture that imagination of childhood, when desires felt free and came to us without fear. If we can get back to that place, then we can get back to seeing our place in the whole family of nature.
Wild Geese Analysis: Summary and Last words
We think Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese is stunning and wonderful. It delivers a timely message.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our analysis of Wild Geese. Don’t forget to subscribe to Shadow of Iris. Not only do we deliver poem analyses, but poems and short stories as well. Our newsletter is free!
Last Updated: Jul 14, 2016 @ 1:58 pm
|Born||(1894-09-19)September 19, 1894|
New York City
|Died||March 15, 1942(1942-03-15) (aged 47)|
Los Angeles, California
|Resting place||Stockbridge, Massachusetts|
|Alma mater||Radcliffe College|
|Period||1924–1944 as an adult|
|Genre||Drama, poetry, novels, Christian fiction|
|Notable awards||Newbery Award|
National Book Award
|Spouse||Arthur S. Pederson|
Rachel Lyman Field (1894–1942) was an American novelist, poet, and children's fiction writer. She is best known for the Newbery Award-winning Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. Field also won a National Book Award, Newbery Honor award and two of her books are on the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award list.
Field was a descendant of David Dudley Field, the early New Englandclergyman and writer. She grew up in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Her first published work was an essay entitled "A Winter Walk" printed in St. Nicholas Magazine when she was 16. She was educated at Radcliffe College where she studied writing under George Pierce Baker.
According to Ruth Hill Viguers, Field was "fifteen when she first visited Maine and fell under the spell of its 'island-scattered coast'. Calico Bush  still stands out as a near-perfect re-creation of people and place in a story of courage, understated and beautiful."
Field married Arthur S. Pederson in 1935, with whom she collaborated in 1937 on To See Ourselves. In 1938 one of her plays was adapted for the British film The Londonderry Air. She was also successful as an author of adult fiction, writing the bestsellers Time Out of Mind (1935), All This and Heaven Too (1938), and And Now Tomorrow (1942). They were adapted as films produced under their own titles in 1947, 1940, and 1944 respectively. Field also wrote the English lyrics for that version of Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria" used in the Disney film Fantasia.
Field is famous, too, for her poem-turned-song "Something Told the Wild Geese". She also wrote a story about the nativity of Jesus, "All Through the Night".
She moved to Hollywood, where she lived with her husband and daughter.
Rachel Field died at the Good Samaritan Hospital on March 15, 1942, of pneumonia following an operation.
Hitty, Her First Hundred Years received the Newbery Award in 1930, for the year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."
The 1944 (posthumous) Prayer for a Child, with a story by Field and illustrations by Elizabeth Orton Jones, won the Caldecott Medal recognizing the year's "most distinguished picture book for children" published in the U.S.
Hitty and Prayer for a Child were both named to the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award list of books deemed to belong "on the same bookshelf" with Carroll's Alice. Prayer for a Child was one of the seventeen inaugural selections in 1958, which were originally published 1893 to 1957. Hitty was added in 1961.
Time Out of Mind won one of the inaugural National Book Awards as the Most Distinguished Novel of 1935, voted by the American Booksellers Association.
- "Something Told the Wild Geese", poem-turned-song[clarification needed]
- "All Through the Night", nativity story[clarification needed]
- 1924, The Pointed People, poetry
- 1924, Six Plays, drama
- 1926, Taxis And Toadstools, poetry
- 1926, Eliza And The Elves, fiction
- 1927, The Magic Pawnshop, fiction
- 1927, The Cross-Stitch Heart And Other One-Act Plays, drama
- 1928, Little Dog Toby, fiction
- 1929, Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, fiction — winner of the 1930 Newbery Medal
- 1931, Calico Bush, fiction
- 1932, Hepatica Hawks, fiction (translated into german by Annemarie Böll "Die Tochter des Riesen")
- 1933, Just Across The Street, fiction
- 1934, Branches Green, poetry
- 1934, Susanna B And William C, fiction
- 1934, God's Pocket, historical non-fiction
- 1935, Time Out Of Mind , fiction
- 1937, To See Ourselves, by Field and her husband Arthur Pederson, fiction
- 1938, All This and Heaven Too
- 1938(?), The Londonderry Air, drama; produced as a film, The Londonderry Air (1938)
- 1940(?), "Ave Maria" lyrics for the film Fantasia (1940)
- 1942, And Now Tomorrow, fiction
- 1944, Prayer for a Child, fiction, picture book illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones — winner of the 1945 Caldecott Medal
- ^ abD. G. "The Rachel Field Exhibition." The Yale University Library Gazette 31, no. 1 (1956): 53-54. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40857725.
- ^Ruth Hill Viguers, "Introduction" (date?) to Calico Bush by Rachel Field (1931).
- ^Rachel Field at Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
- ^Fantasia, end screen credits, last segment "Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria".
- ^Newbery Medal Books: 1922–1955, eds. Bertha Mahony Miller and Elinor Whitney Field, The Horn Book, Inc., 1955, LOC 55-13968, pp. 77–85.
- ^ ab"Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922-Present". Association for Library Service to Children. ALA. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
- ^ ab"Caldecott Medal Winners, 1938 - Present". Association for Library Service to Children. ALA. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
- ^"Books and Authors", The New York Times, April 12, 1936, page BR12.
- ^"Lewis is Scornful of Radio Culture: Nothing Ever Will Replace the Old-Fashioned Book, He Tells Booksellers", The New York Times, May 12, 1936, page 25.