Meditation at Lagunitas
by Robert Hass
The Pastoral World
"Pastoral" poems frequently depict cliché images of nature: fuzzy lambs, lush grass, cascading waterfalls, thatched-roof houses, and beautiful maidens. But, the images in this poem are very specific and realistic, like the "dead sculpted trunk" of the tree at Lagunitas. For the speaker, nature is the world of the particular, the mind is where ideas reside, and language is capable of bringing the two together. He treats words as natural events, and compares things in nature to words.
- Title: The title announces the setting of the poem at Lagunitas, a beautiful, rural area of northern California.
- Lines 4-6: The speaker uses intense nature imagery to create the sense that the woodpecker and the tree are unique, specific, and "particular" things. Although woodpeckers exist elsewhere, this "clown-faced woodpecker" – the one the speaker is looking at – exists only in one place at that moment.
- Line 10: The metaphor comparing the sound of the word "blackberry" to a bushy bramble reminds us of a real blackberry bush.
- Lines 20-23: The speaker’s desire for his "childhood river" is compared to a "thirst" using metaphor. It’s not just "like" a thirst, it is a thirst. Once again, the pastoral imagery is immediate and tense, letting us know we’re dealing with a "particular" thing and not a "general idea."
- Line 29: A metaphor compares pleasant days to the erotic satisfaction of "good flesh."
- Line 31: The poem fools us into thinking that it has ended on a pastoral image of blackberries, but the line’s beauty is in the repetition of the sound of the word, even more than in the image that it conjures.