The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman’s posthumously published “The Cricket” is an irregular ode of 131 lines divided into five sections of unequal length. The titular insect, at first glance almost comically inconsequential, provokes in the poet a meditation on death that leads him ultimately to affirm the value of life.

The introductory section presents a lyrical consideration of sound-producing insects. Both the “humming bee” and the “dogday locust” have their bards, but the cricket, whose voice is “bright” among “the insect crowd,” has not been sung of before. After identifying the cricket as the subject of the ode, the poet also invokes the insect as his muse: “Shall I not take to help me in my song/ A little cooing cricket?”

Although the rest of the poem is written in the first person, the second section utilizes a second-person voice. The speaker addresses his audience directly, inviting the reader to imagine a setting in which “our minstrel’s carol,” the song of the cricket, can be heard and appreciated. First a shady spot beside a brook is pictured, then “a garden bower” with overhanging leaves and vines. In both places, the sleepy afternoon produces a half-waking, half-dreaming state. As consciousness thus becomes receptive to the natural world, the landscape suddenly seems filled with crickets and their singing.

In the third section, the mood of the poem changes as the poet begins to contemplate...

(The entire section is 528 words.)