Analyze the poem "The Bicycle Ride" by Selima Hill.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Selima Hill is one of England's most creative and imaginative poets. She describes herself as having a man’s brain in a woman’s body.

This poem, written in free verse, has a first person point of view, narrated by a young girl (probably the author). She is out for a bicycle ride in the early hours of the day. The poet uses descriptive language to compare the things seen as she rides by on his bike.  Adding to the effect of the ride, onomatopoeic words give the poem an added layer of imagery. The images provide a scenic bicycle ride.

In the beginning of the poem, the rider takes off on the bike singing. It is early morning, and the girl has just gotten up.  Singing as she goes, obviously the rider enjoys the scenery.  It is autumn, so the air is chilly. Passing by someone mending a fence, the rider hears the tapping of the nails being driven into the posts. A twig is caught in the bicycle spokes, which sounds as though a music box is jingling. Her descriptions extend to the smells of warm horses and wood burning.

In her second stanza, she rides by her church. Her tone begins to change to a less joyous mood. Her thoughts return to the death of her father, who loved the church. The church has an uplifting name: The Church in the Chance. She describes the place where her father is buried. The rider does not stop but sees the spot out the corner of eye.

...every day the villagers come
to put fresh flowers
on the graves. My father's
is under the yew tree
by the wall

The last stanza explains the grief that her family endured after her father’s death. They did not go by the graveyard for a long time because of the reminder of her father’s passing. Her memory of the aftermath of the funeral is of the food that people brought to the family. Most importantly she recalls father as he patted her on her back:

Pat, pat, pat ... My father
used to dry my tears like that

The passing of her father impacted her greatly. Her comforter has gone, and the rider and her mother are left with their recollections of this memorable father.

Descriptions of the bicycle ride lead to the images of a great loss. The rider changes as she travels by the church and its graveyard. The memory is still fresh in the young girl’s heart.


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