by Mary Oliver
Section 4 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Nothing is so delicate or so finely hinged as the wings
of the green moth
against the lantern
against its heat
against the beak of the crow
in the early morning.
- Way to change the subject, speaker. She goes from waxing poetic about how nothing lasts in the last stanza to describing… bugs.
- Those crazy bugs, flying up against light bulbs and lanterns. Someone should really tell them it's not good for them.
- But even though pesky moths are the bane of every camper in the world, the way the speaker stresses how delicate the moth is, bumping up against the lantern, creates an image of beauty, rather than annoyance.
- And check out that repetition of the color green. The green grass closed the last section, and we open this one with a green moth. More emphasis on the natural world, perhaps?
- There's that repetition of "against," too. The moth is up against the lantern, the heat, and the beak of the crow. Clearly the moth is not buddies with any of these things. And what do you want to bet that the moth comes out the loser in each of these face-offs?
- We mean, the moth could totally get fried by the lantern. And a crow? He'd gobble up a moth in two shakes of a tail feather. It's really no contest.
- So why mention it at all? Well, stressing these dangers seems to emphasize the vulnerability of the moth—and that vulnerability is thanks to and enhances its beauty—its delicate, finely hinged wings.
Yet the moth has trim, and feistiness, and not a drop
Not in this world.
- Despite the fact that the moth is pretty hopeless (if the lantern doesn't get it, the crow will), it has a vibrant energy and doesn't feel pity for itself.
- That lack of self-pity definitely seems connected to that sense we picked up on in the last section of our speaker's refusal to stay in the graveyard.
- She doesn't want to linger over the things she has lost. She wants to be like the moth: feisty and vibrant and without self-pity, even though any number of things could swallow her whole at any moment.