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Something Told the Wild Geese by Rachel Field

“Something Told the Wild Geese” by Rachel Field is a children’s poem woven into lyrical notes to produce melody and joy to the young audience. It was published in 1934 in Field’s poetry collection Branches Green. Rachel Lyman Field, popularly known as Rachel Field, is an American novelist, children’s fiction writer, and an outstanding poet. Her love for poetry gave her the strength and inspiration to write for the readers and amuse them with her skills. She adores children and produced a massive number of poems dedicated to the tiny tots.

  • Read the full text of “Something Told the Wild Geese” below:
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Something Told the Wild Geese
by Rachel Field

Something told the wild geese
   It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
   Something whispered,—”Snow.”
Leaves were green and stirring,
   Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
   Something cautioned,—”Frost.”
All the sagging orchards
   Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
   At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
   It was time to fly,—
Summer sun was on their wings,
   Winter in their cry.

- from Branches Green (1934)
Analysis of Something Told the Wild Geese by Rachel Field


Summary

Field’s poem “Something Told the Wild Geese” focuses on the winged creatures, i.e., wild geese. In this poem, the speaker describes how it is their time to leave the colder areas and fly away to the warmer places as winter is knocking at the door. All the forces of nature try to warn the birds so that they can reach their comfortable, warm places in time. The warmth of the sunny season can still be felt but, they should fly to the warmer places to keep themselves cozy and warm.

Meaning

This poem begins with reference to the “wild geese.” It indicates the time of their departure to warmer places. As winter approaches, they take a long flight in order to keep themselves safe. This particular poem is set upon the critical juncture between autumn and winter when nature alerts birds to start for the South. Nature whispers at their ears through the lisp of leaves. The sudden chill in the autumnal breeze reminds each creature that it’s time to head towards the warm regions. In this way, the all-knowing spirit of nature urges her feathery children to prepare themselves for the long, tedious flight.

Form, Rhyme Scheme, & Meter

Form

“Something Told the Wild Geese” runs into four stanzas with four lines each. A stanza consisting of four lines is called a quatrain. The poem belongs to the category of children’s poetry, and hence, it has a sing-song-like sound scheme. The poem is told from the point of view of an omniscient narrator warning the geese to migrate to the warm southern countries. It takes an imperative tone as it affirms instead of explaining the identity of the suspicious “something.”

Rhyme Scheme

The poem follows a regular rhyme. In the first three stanzas, the rhyme scheme is ABCB. It means the second and fourth lines end with a similar sound. For instance, in the first quatrain, the rhyming pair of words are “go” and “Snow.” Besides, this scheme is used in ballads. Apart from that, Field uses a variation in the last stanza. It contains the alternative ABAB rhyme scheme. Here, “geese” and “wings,” and “fly” and “cry” rhyme together.

Meter

This poem is written in the trochaic trimeter. It means each line consists of three trochees. A trochee has a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. For example, in the foot “Some-thing,” the initial syllable is stressed. Let’s have a look at the metrical scheme of the first stanza. It will give an overall idea of the poem’s meter and help while reading.

Some-thing/ told the/ wild geese

       It was/ time to/ go.

Though the/ fields lay/ gold-en

       Some-thing/ whis-pered,/— “Snow.”

The last foot of the first line, “wild geese,” contains two stressed syllables. It is a spondee. The last foot of the second and fourth lines does not have an unstressed syllable after the stressed one. This kind of metrical ending is called catalectic. Though there is a syllable absent in the last part, it is still considered a complete foot.

Poetic Devices

In “Something Told the Wild Geese,” Field showcases the following poetic devices:

  • Repetition: It is the use of words and phrases that are repeated several times throughout the poem. Like, “Something” is repeated twice in the first stanza.
  • Refrain: It is used when a phrase/line frequently occurs throughout the poem. For example, the line “Something told the wild geese” is repeated at the beginning of the first and fourth stanzas.
  • Personification: It denotes human qualities to animals, objects, or abstract ideas. For example, nature is personified as “something” that reminds the wild geese to be prepared until it is too late.
  • Alliteration: It occurs in “time to,” “But beneath,” “Summer sun,” etc.
  • Metonymy: In the line “Though the field lay golden,” Field hints at the cause (the sunlight) by referring to its effect (appearing golden). 
  • Synecdoche: Field refers to the wild geese as a whole by using the phrase, “each wild breast stiffened.” It is a use of synecdoche.


Line-by-Line Explanation & Analysis

Lines 1-4

Something told the wild geese

       It was time to go.

Though the fields lay golden

       Something whispered,— “Snow.”

The poem begins with the word “something,” passing on thoughts of suspicion. This term adds an element of mystery. Readers are prone to ask, who or what is this “something”? Further delving into the text, they can identify that “something” is some natural force (probably the wind). This benevolent entity wants the well-being of the birds. It warns the wild geese to go to warmer places as winter is around the corner. Even though the “fields lay golden,” stating that it is still the summer season where the ripe crops are laid in the fields, there is some voice whispering to the birds that it’s time to go. Soon, the landscape will turn white due to the falling of “Snow,” indicating the impending winter.

Lines 5-8

Leaves were green and stirring,

       Berries, luster-glossed,

But beneath warm feathers

       Something cautioned,— “Frost.”

The second stanza is filled with images from the summer. Field depicts how the leaves are still fresh “green,” and the mild wind gives a nice motion to them. It seems as if the leaves are dancing to the rhythm of the breeze. The “berries” shine and appear “luster-glossed” due to sunlight. All these images depict the scenery of a fresh, sunny morning. But despite this beautiful depiction of the summer, “something” frightens the birds again. It wants them to migrate to their favorite warmer spots by alluding to the harsh effects of the “Frost.”

Lines 9-12

All the sagging orchards

       Steamed with amber spice,

But each wild breast stiffened

       At remembered ice.

In this section, the joyous mood of the poem changes. It turns apprehensive and dull. The imagery used in this stanza denotes the autumn season leading to the gloomy winter. Field builds the picture of the “orchards” which are “sagging” (drooping) with the ripe fruits. The heaviness of ripe fruits makes the trees droop. But each time, when the birds try to rejoice in the autumnal sun, they get “stiffened” (scared) whenever the memories of winter come to their minds. Winter is not favorable for the wild geese. Hence, they want to keep themselves at bay before it approaches.

Lines 13-16

Something told the wild geese

       It was time to fly,—

Summer sun was on their wings,

       Winter in their cry.

The last stanza begins with a refrain of initial lines, i.e., “Something told the wild geese.” It hints at the speaker’s concern for the wild geese. The speaker wants them to stick out to their places before it’s winter. Winter has not yet started as the “wings” of the wild geese are still warm, but whenever the birds ponder about winter, they begin to “cry,” connoting their discomfort and unpleasantness for the cold weather.

Theme

The most prominent theme in the poem is nature. Field uses a good count of imagery to make the audience feel its presence right from the beginning. The phrases like “fields lay golden,” “Leaves were green and stirring,” “Berries luster-glossed,” “​​sagging orchards,” “amber spice” stir the perfect blend of different aspects of nature to create a serene picture of the summer, autumn, and winter. Nature is believed to be a source of peace, tranquility, harmony, and melody. It proves to be the greatest healer to the wounded and destroyed minds.

“Something” is repeated several times in the text, creating a sense of mystery to its readers. It is none other than nature itself showing its concern for the “wild geese” to return to their warm homes before winter lays her icy hands on them. Apart from that, this poem also taps on the themes of autumnal change, the transience of comfort and joy, and apprehension of winter/death.

Imagery

This device is used to invoke the senses of sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. Let’s have a look at some examples of imagery from the text.

  • Visual Imagery (sense of sight): “fields lay golden,” “Leaves were green and stirring,” “Berries, luster-glossed,” and “sagging orchards.”
  • Tactile Imagery (sense of touch): “warm feather,” “wild breast stiffened,” and “Summer sun on their wings.”
  • Auditory Imagery (sense of hearing): “whispered,— “Snow.” and “Something told”
  • Olfactory Imagery (sense of smell): “Steamed with amber spice.”


Historical Context

This poem was first published in Rachel Field’s fifth poetry collection, Branches Green, in 1934. In this piece, Field talks about the wild goose, a kind of migratory bird. They are massive waterfowl and are best known for their migration patterns. All the birds, especially geese, have a strong distaste for the winter.

Winter is often portrayed as a time of sadness. In this season, degeneration takes place, and everything around turns white. Nobody can find the lively colors of nature. Beneath the hardened snow, organic things start to freeze.

Birds cannot tolerate the harsh climatic conditions of the North during winter. They cannot bear the weight of the snow on their wings. Hence, they decide to fly to the warmer South to find relief.

Field seems to be an avid admirer of nature and has beautifully captured all the sights from her surroundings in her poem “Something Told the Wild Geese.” She shared the lineage with an American historical writer, David Dudley Field. Her first work was an essay titled  “A Winter Walk.” It was published in St. Nicholas Magazine when she was sixteen.

Questions and Answers

What is the poem “Something Told the Wild Geese” about?

Rachel Field’s poem “Something Told the Wild Geese” is about the autumn season, which reminds the wild geese of the winter. Hence, it urges them to get ready for the flight to the warm regions.

When did Rachel Field Write “Something Told the Wild Geese”?

Field wrote this poem in the 1930s. It was first published in her poetry collection, Branches Green, in 1934.

What is the meaning of “Something Told the Wild Geese”?

The title of the poem hints at the voice of nature. It speaks through its seasons, wind, trees, etc. Only those who are close to nature can comprehend their language. In this poem, the voice of autumn warns the wild geese about the approaching winter and tells them it’s time to go.

What are the winter words in the poem “Something Told the Wild Geese”?

The words like “Snow,” ‘Frost,” and “ice” denote the presence of the winter season in the text.

Why did the birds have to go in the poem “Something Told the Wild Geese”?

The birds are afraid of the winter as they cannot bear the extreme cold conditions. Their hearts get frozen to even think about it. That’s why the birds have to leave till there is time.

Which words indicate the summer in its full swing? 

Words like “fields lay golden,” “Leaves were green and stirring,” “Berries, luster-glossed” are the indicators of the summer in the poem. 

What is the full name of Rachel Field? When and Where was Rachel Field born?

Her full name is Rachel Lyman Field. She was born on September 19, 1894, in New York City and brought up in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She was a novelist, fiction writer, and poet.

What poems did Rachel Field compose?

Though Field is remembered for her works of fiction, she also wrote a great number of poems. Most of them are inspired by nature. Her best-known poems include “If Once You Have Slept on an Island,” “Good Green Bus,” Petition in Spring,” etc.

What is the rhyme scheme of “Something Told the Wild Geese”?

The poem has been weaved into an ABCB rhyme scheme. There is only one exception. It occurs in the last stanza. Here, Field uses the ABAB rhyme scheme.

Which season is the poet talking about in the poem? Find the words that describe the season.

The overall poem is set in autumn, when the heat of summer can still be felt. At the same time, creatures can get a notice of winter in the breeze. The following words describe this season: “fields lay golden,” “green and stirring,” “luster-glossed,” “sagging orchards,” etc.

What cautioned the wild geese about “Frost”?

The autumn/nature cautioned the wild geese about “Frost.” They could sense it right beneath their warm feathers.

Why do wild geese fly south?

Wild geese (Canada geese) can be seen flying south from September to the beginning of November. They migrate to the temperate southern regions in order to survive the harsh cold of the North.

What do you think the poet means by the following phrases “luster-glossed” and “green and stirring”?

The phrase “luster-glossed” refers to the shining outer layer of the ripe berries. It seems nature has glossed “luster” on them. The phrase “green and stirring” hints at the green leaves that stir in the breeze. By using the term “stirring,” the poet personifies the “Leaves.”

What is the meaning of “sagging orchards”? What do you mean by “sagged”?

The phrase “sagging orchards” contains a personal metaphor. Here, the poet refers to the fruit-bearing trees of the orchards that sink downwards under the weight of the fruits. The term “sagged” means a thing/person bulging downwards under weight or pressure.

Which season is mentioned in the first stanza of the poem?

Field alludes to the summer by using the line “the fields lay golden” in the first stanza.

Which animal is mentioned in the second stanza?

In the second stanza, Field refers to the wild geese by the phrase “warm feathers.” It contains a use of synecdoche.

What is the meaning of “amber spice”?

Amber is a hard, translucent fossilized resin. Its smell is compared to that of oriental spices in the phrase “amber spice.” By using this phrase, Field evokes the sense of smell (olfactory imagery) in readers’ minds.

Which personification of autumn appears in the poem?

In this poem, Field invests autumn with the ability to talk with the wild geese. It warns and reminds them of winter throughout the piece.

What does “stiffened” mean?

In the line “But each wild breast stiffened,” the term “stiffened” signifies becoming stiff or rigid. When remembering ice, the wild geese’s hearts seem to come to a halt out of fear.

What is the lesson in the poem “Something Told the Wild Geese”?

The main lesson of the poem is that it is always better to be prepared while there is time. We know the happy moments slip away quickly. Then comes the lashing moment of pain and apprehension. So, we have to be ready for it and act accordingly to avoid any disruption.

What is the main idea of the poem “Something Told the Wild Geese”?

Field’s poem revolves around the coming of winter and the reaction of the wild geese. A voice speaks through this piece and warns the creature to get ready as the winter is coming.

How does the poem “Something Told the Wild Geese” describe the autumn?

In this poem, Field beautifully depicts the autumn by using vivid imagery and figurative language. For instance, she depicts the reflection of sun rays on a field full of ripe crops by the phrase “fields lay golden.” Furthermore, she describes the stirring of fresh green leaves, “luster-glossed” berries, orchards overbearing fruits, and spice of amber on the wind. These images collectively paint the picture of autumn on the mind’s canvas.

What is the theme of “Something Told the Wild Geese”?

This piece taps a number of themes that include autumn, change, apprehension, transience, and migration. Through this poem, Field describes how autumn alerts the wild geese to leave before winter lays her icy hands on them. For more information, refer to the Theme section.


Similar Poems about Autumn, Winter, & Nature

  • “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio” by James Wright — In this poem, a spectator recounts the suffering of the working class in the post-depression world.
  • “Equinox” by Elizabeth Alexander — taps on the themes of change, old-age, death, and life. This piece depicts the activities and reactions of bees during autumn.
  • “Talking in their Sleep” by Edith M. Thomas — describes the harsh effects of winter on different creatures and their response to it.
  • “The Nightingale” by Philip Sydney — highlights a lover’s pain who has been heartbroken. The song of the nightingale just adds to the pain and lament of the speaker.
  • “Deep in the Quiet Wood” by James Weldon Johnson — explores the escape and solace one can find from the tribulations of daily life in the pacifying woods.
  • “The Wind” by Amy Lowell — is about the wind that spreads positivity and cheerfulness to all the places it goes.
  • “[little tree]” by E.E. Cummings — is about a Christmas tree that has been freshly plucked from the forest and brought to the poet’s home. The poet personifies the tree as a small child.


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