Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“A Blessing” is a visionary nature poem; it begins with a careful description of the natural world, with the speaker’s gradual immersion into that world, and then moves suddenly and unexpectedly to a moment of spiritual revelation. At first, the speaker is caught up in the mundane world of human activity; he has been traveling on “the highway to Rochester, Minnesota.” Yet something has caught his attention, has led him to pull over and to get “off” the highway. He and his friend have seen the two Indian ponies, and they begin to leave the human world of highways and cities and enter the natural world, the world from which twenty-first century Americans are typically estranged. Human alienation from nature is the starting point of this poem, and the capacity to undo that alienation is its topic. The boundary between the human world and the natural world is of central concern, and images of crossing boundaries are frequent. In the second line, for example, the twilight “bounds softly forth” on the pasture grass, but it would seem that the ponies, and not the twilight, are doing the bounding forth. Already boundaries are blurring. As the speaker and his friend “step over the barbed wire” fence and cross into the pasture, their movement into and participation in the natural world become clearer.

Often nature appears indifferent to human beings, and animals are typically fearful of people. In this case, however, the natural world as...

(The entire section is 556 words.)