Both lyric and didactic, “To a Waterfowl” creates a natural scene in order to derive a moral lesson from it. The poem consists of eight quatrains, or four-line stanzas. Each stanza is written in pentameter and trimeter verse with an alternating rhyme scheme. The poem subtly blends descriptive scenes with inward reflections on them. The poem’s title indicates an unspecified waterfowl, which some critics have suggested must be a goose. By not specifying the waterfowl’s species, the poet suggests a more universal image that will help in conveying his theme. The poem opens with a question and the interrogative form is used in both the first and third stanzas.
The whole poem encompasses the flight of the waterfowl from two viewpoints. It appears to the poet at dusk as it gently floats overhead and gradually disappears into the horizon. The poet also projects the journey of the bird over vast territories as it flies from its winter abode to its summer home. The immediate image of the bird has the poet reflect on the bird’s destination and the nature of its flight. In his whimsical meditating, the poet addresses the bird directly as though to open up a dialogue between nature’s creature and the poet’s inner soul. However, it is not until the last stanza that the poet reveals himself and speaks out his message in the first person.
The poem is organized clearly around the scenic images alternating with the poet’s reflections. The first...
(The entire section is 593 words.)