Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Sparrow Hills” is a lyric apotheosis of the beauties of nature. Pasternak wrote numerous poems extolling nature, including the other poems in the same collection Sestra moia zhizn (My Sister, Life, 1959), but this poem is among his best, if not the best, in that respect. Some of his most powerful images are to be found in “Sparrow Hills.”

For Pasternak, nature represents the best things that life has to offer. It has a soothing and healing power that is there for the taking. Even the frightening specter of approaching old age cannot diminish the beneficial power of nature, as illustrated by the poet’s dismissal of the “terrible prophecies” concerning old age. All one has to do is to be attentive to the signals coming from nature, and the vital forces in man will be released.

Yet Pasternak is not merely praising the beauties of nature. He is also warning humankind not to be so blind, as, for example, when he asks rhetorically, “Where are your eyes?” The veiled warning of the potential for incalculable loss is contained in the final stanza, where he bestows on nature the power to light up the whole world (metaphorized by “noon”), all holidays (“Whitsunday”), and all motion (“walks”), all of which can be lost if humankind is indifferent or abusive. Life has always been like that, and nothing will ever change it. The woods know it, the clearings know it, the clouds know it—only human beings seem...

(The entire section is 536 words.)