William is a romantic poet. Like his other literary works, this is also a romantic poem representing nature. He describes the difference in the environment and natural beauty before and after the poplar trees are fallen down. With example of poplar trees, the poet wants to show the real phase of human life according to rule of nature.
The poplars are cut down which used to grow along the Ouse River. The river doesn’t reflect the beautiful shadows of these trees. The musical environment has been ruined now. The leaves don’t blow the air and sing a song in happy mood. There are also no shades. These trees were once in the field but now they have become seats. Not only the environment has been ruined but there is also destruction of the blackbird’s habitat. The bird used to add charm in that beautiful environment by its different types of melodious songs. It has transferred its nest to the hazel trees to get shelter and shade.
The poet thinks that his days too are passing away fast and should be lying down like those poplars. He thinks that he will be in the tomb before such grove will grow again. Such scenes make him think deeply about human lives. He understands that trees are perishable like the woods. Such events inspire him to think about the perishable nature of human joys and our enjoyment is short when our lives are so short. Man is the most perishable thing in the world and will live shorter than now in the future.
The poem deals with the personal feeling according to the principle of romanticism. Romantic writers don’t write care the common interest so they express their personal emotions using singular pronoun ‘I’. So, in this poem we see the first person instead of others. Personal approach makes the expression stronger and powerful.
The poem compares the life cycle of poplar and the human life. Poplar grows up; it produces branches, leaves, etc. it makes shades and pillars. It lies down and perishes in the ground. Our lives also grow and perish. Human life is also similar to the natural life. However, the life of nature or tree passes through time. The human life is also the same. So, our enjoyment goes away from the life. As human life is not certain, we should live our life, every moment of life enjoying a lot and with great happiness. We cannot take these enjoyable moments with us after our death. We can take only the physical body, which we get from the nature. Our pleasures and enjoyments all die before our death.
The poem is remarkable for its celebration of the rural and its nostalgic tone. (Nostalgic poems are reminiscences of past life of a writer, is also part of autobiography). The poet recollects the scene of the poplar trees, which he used to enjoy the whispering sound of the tree columns. Winds used to play and sing in the leaves. Rivers reflect the image of the trees beautifully. Birds have shifted to other places. Melody has disappeared. Now he has no pleasures in these poplar trees. After 12 years he sees the field and feels everything dead by depletion.
The poet has given indirect suggestion to the readers to protect the natural vegetation. He warns us that if we won’t protect the green forests now only, we will die before age. We should understand that we are living in this world just due to nature. We are just the products of nature and one day we have to surrender ourselves in the lap of nature. The poet has written this poem in defense of natural conservation because he thinks that we get some important human aspects from the trees. The poplars represent the forest. When we preserve the trees we can get shades and pillars for houses. Birds live there and they sing some melodious songs, which make our lives joyful. The poet compares the tree with human life and says our lives are more perishable than the trees. We are destroyed by the nature. So we should defend the nature.
1. Summarize the poem “The Poplar Field” in one paragraph.
Ans: The poem `The Poplar Field’ was composed by William Cowper. The poet compares the condition of the poplar field before 12 years and after 12 years. Before twelve years, when he visited the poplar field, at that time there were many trees and the shade of these tree could be seen in the Ouse river. The black bird used to sing. The wind used to blow in the leaves. He sat under the trees. But after twelve years he found nothing, only cut down trees were lying on the ground. Finally, the poet compares his life with the condition of those poplar trees. The trees were once strong and straight but now they are lying on the ground, similarly, the poet was also handsome and young but now he has become old and he thinks he will lie on the ground soon. It means he will die soon.
2. What changes did the poet see in the poplar field when he came back after 12 years?
Ans: After twelve years, he saw the many changes in the poplar field. The trees were cut down. They were lying down on the ground there was no reflection of trees in the Ouse River. The black birds had left the poplar field. The poet couldn’t hear bird’s song. The wind wasn’t blowing in the leaves of the trees as in the past. He sat on cut down trees.
3. Discuss how the poet links up the idea of the cut down poplars with the end of human life and pleasures.
Ans: After twelve years, he saw many changes in the poplar field. The trees were cut down. They were lying down on the ground there was no reflection of trees in the Ouse River. The black birds had left the poplar field. The poet couldn’t hear bird’s song. The wind wasn’t blowing in the leaves of trees as in the past. He sat on cut down trees. The poplar field has changed to a desert. The sight of the fallen poplars makes the poet feel sad. He realizes that he will die soon in the future and lie in the grave like the fallen poplars lying on the grass. The poet also says that our pleasures are shorter than our life.
4. Write essay on “Living in the country.” Or, write an essay on rural life”.
Ans: Country Life means spending our life in village. Most people in our country live in village. There is peaceful environment in the village. There is no noise of vehicles and there isn’t much crowd. Village people have fresh air, water, and they have leisure life. They are not as busy as town people. Village people are cooperative and they help each other in need. But there are not many schools and there is illiteracy. Most of them are uneducated. There are less opportunities of job. Everywhere there is poverty. There aren’t many facilities of schools, hospital, transport, and so on. Therefore, they can’t get good education, treatment well.
Questions for Practice
- What does the poet miss when he visits the poplar field after the poplars were cleared?
- Why is William Cowper saddened by the devastation of the poplar trees?
- Why do you think the poet has written this poem in the first person?
- Discuss how the poet links up the idea of the cut down poplars with the end of human life and pleasures.