Study Guide

A Blessing Man and the Natural World

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Man and the Natural World

Some people just can't get enough of the Great Outdoors. But even if you're not a nature buff, you probably enjoy a pleasant stroll on a sunny day. Recent research confirms the therapeutic effects of spending time in nature. But nature isn't all sweetness and light; sometimes it's downright scary (just ask Captain Ahab). For poets, the relationship between humans and nature is a source of endless fascination. James Wright put it this way: "Oh, how I would love to be a chickadee! But I can't be a chickadee. All I can be is what I am […] so I'm a nature poet who writes about human beings in nature." In "A Blessing," Wright's speaker communes with ponies, instead of birds, but the same fascination and mystery emerges.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Would you describe yourself as more of an "indoor person" or "outdoor person"? Why? Do you think the speaker in "A Blessing" normally spends a lot of time in nature? Why or why not?
  2. Describe one way you used your imagination when you played outside as a child. (For example, did you ever pretend to be an animal? Did you pretend that shiny rocks were precious jewels? Did you have a "fort" behind a bush or launch a leaf "boat" in a puddle?) Do you think this kind of playful interaction with nature is similar to the speaker's personification of twilight in "A Blessing"? Why or why not?
  3. Why do you think so many people love their pets and even consider them family members? Do you think that spending time with animals can offer benefits that spending time with other people cannot? Why? Do you think the speaker in "A Blessing" benefited from interacting with the Indian ponies? What parts of the poem give you that idea?

Chew on This

The great outdoors are really… great. "A Blessing" suggests that spending time in nature can make people happier by expanding their awareness and helping them feel that they are part of something larger than themselves.

On second thought, maybe those outdoors aren't all they're cracked up to be. "A Blessing" suggests that the human quest to find emotional fulfillment in the world of nature is doomed to disappointment; industrial society and our own analytical minds prevent us from fully appreciating the gifts of the natural world.

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