Themes and Meanings
“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 embodied in the ponies approaches the speaker with what seem to be feelings of welcome and happiness. The speaker is delighted by the ponies, yet he recognizes what, in human terms, one would call their “loneliness.” That is, to human beings living in society, playing socially prescribed roles and understanding themselves and the world in terms of that social network, anyone who is not a part of that social network must be “lonely.” Henry David Thoreau in his hut on Walden Pond or a religious mystic living alone in the desert is “lonely” as these ponies are. Yet this “loneliness” is not the frightening thing that most people think it is. The ponies “love each other,” and they are...
(The entire section is 556 words.)