Category Archives: “Fergus Falling”

“Fergus Falling”

He climbed to the top
of one of those million white pines
set out across the emptying pastures
of the fifties – some program to enrich the rich
and rebuke the forefathers
who cleared it all at once with ox and axe –
climbed to the top, probably to get out
of the shadow
not of those forefathers but of this father
and saw for the first time
down in its valley, Bruce Pond, giving off
its little steam in the afternoon,
pond where Clarence Akley came on Sunday mornings to cut down
the cedars around the shore, I’d sometimes hear the slow spondees
of his work, he’s gone,
where Milton Norway came up behind me while I was fishing and
stood awhile before I knew he was there, he’s the one who put the
cedar shingles on the house, some have curled or split, a few have
blown off, he’s gone,
where Gus Newland logged in the cold snap of ’58, the only man will-
ing to go into those woods that never got warmer than ten below,
he’s gone,
pond where two wards of the state wandered on Halloween, the Na-
tional Guard searched for them in November, in vain, the next fall a
hunter found their skeletons huddled together, in vain, they’re
gone,
pond where an old fisherman in a rowboat sits, drowning hooked
worms, when he goes he’s replaced and is never gone,
and when Fergus
saw the pond for the first time
in the clear evening, saw its oldness down there
in its old place in the valley, he became heavier suddenly
in his bones
the way fledglings do just before they fly,
and the soft pine cracked.
I would not have heard his cry
if my electric saw had been working,
its carbide teeth speeding through the bland spruce of our time, or
burning
black arcs into some scavenged hemlock plank,
like dark circles under eyes
when the brain thinks too close to the skin,
but I was sawing by hand and I heard that cry
as though he were attacked; we ran out,
when we bent over him he said, “Galway, Inés, I saw a pond!”
His face went gray, his eyes fluttered close a frightening
moment.
Yes – a pond
that lets off its mist
on clear afternoons of August, in that valley
to which many have come, for their reasons,
from which many have gone, a few for their reasons, most not,
where even now and old fisherman only the pinetops can see
sits in the dry gray wood of his rowboat, waiting for pickerel.

Galway Kinnell

“Fergus Falling” Analysis:

The major themes in the poem, “Fergus Falling,” by Galway Kinnell are mortality, the permanence of Mother Nature, and the desire to discover in spite of the dangers.

In the first stanza of the poem we read the, “he” climbed to the top of a pine tree.  Later, in the poem we find out that, “he,” is Fergus.  In the poem Kinnell writes, “climbed to the top, probably to get out of the shadow not of those forefathers but of this father.”  In saying this Kinnell is trying to show that Fergus has climbed the tree to get out of the shadow of mortality. Despite the dangers of this climb Fergus is willing to accept the risks involved to perhaps discover a way to break away from the shadow of death.  When Fergus gets to the top of the tree and looks out he spots, Bruce Pond down in the valley.  The third and fourth stanzas discuss Fergus’ fall and the last line in the fourth stanza Fergus proclaims, “Galway, Inés, I saw a pond!”   This proclamation shows the reader that Fergus in his dying moment is excited about what he discovered.

The second stanza is devoted to showing the permanence of Mother Nature and the mortality of humans.  Kinnell does this by starting every line in the second stanza with, “pond where,” or, “where,” and then he ends every line with, “he’s gone.”  The first line of the second stanza is a good example of this technique,

“pond where Clarence Akley came on Sunday mornings to cut down
the cedars around the shore, I’d sometimes hear the slow spondees
of his work, he’s gone,”

This shows that while people may come and go the pond persists eternally.

The only line that differs from this is the last line of the second stanza,

“pond where an old fisherman in a rowboat sits, drowning hooked
worms, when he goes he’s replaced and is never gone,”

In this last line Kinnell is showing how Mother Nature and fisherman have formed an inextricable pond, and while a fisherman may perish, one will take his place. Therefore, as long as the pond exists there will be a fisherman on the pond fishing.

Bruce Pond in, “Fergus Falling,” has an omnipresent quality about it, because everything that happens revolves around the pond.  Also, it seems that the pond wants to be left undiscovered, because almost everyone that comes across it perishes.  In the case of Fergus,

“and when Fergus

saw the pond for the first time

in the clear evening, saw its oldness down there

in its old place in the valley, he became heavier suddenly

in his bones

the way fledglings do just before they fly,

and the soft pine cracked.”

Then, in the last two lines of the poem,

“where even now and old fisherman only the pinetops can see

sits in the dry gray wood of his rowboat, waiting for pickerel.”

Kinnell makes it seem as though the only thing that has a right to view the pound is the tree tops, and that Bruce Pond is somehow the reason for Fergus’ fall.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under "Fergus Falling"