Study Guide

Twelfth Song of Thunder Stanza 1

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Stanza 1

Lines 1-2

The voice that beautifies the land!
The voice above,

  • This poem begins with a voice, a powerful voice. In a figurative way, it “beautifies the land” and it comes from somewhere above. 
  • Already, this description of the voice is giving us a sense of something awesome and almost supernatural.

Lines 3-4

The voice of thunder
Within the dark cloud

  • Ah, now we know what this voice is: it’s the personified voice of thunder—that crackling, larger-than-life sound that follows lightning. 
  • The speaker says that the voice comes from “[w]ithin the dark cloud.” Here, the idea of the voice coming from somewhere above is affirmed through the image of the cloud, way up there in the sky. 
  • In describing the cloud as “dark,” the speaker also implies that there is something dark and scary about nature. Thunder can be pretty scary, after all. Weren’t we all a little bit scared of a thunderstorm when we were little kids?
  • (Of course, on a more literal level, thunder tends to accompany rain, which tends to fall from dark clouds. Our speaker could also just be describing your typical rain cloud here.) 
  • In any case, the speaker in these first few lines gives us an awesome view of nature. He’s also giving us a sense of the awesome sounds of nature. Thunder is a pretty spectacular noise.
  • (One quick note on our speaker: we’re just assuming it’s a he at this point, since we have no evidence to the contrary. For a full run-down, check out our “Speaker” section.) 
  • By evoking thunder and clouds in these lines, the speaker also evokes rain. We might remember that “Twelfth Song of Thunder” is performed as part of a ceremony that’s meant to bring rain. (Check out “In a Nutshell” for more.) Rain is central to our livelihood (just as it was central to the Navajo’s livelihood)—without it, food doesn’t grow. 
  • So, this description of thunder is also a description of the way in which nature (and rain specifically) help us survive and prosper.

Lines 5-6

Again and again it sounds,
The voice that beautifies the land. 

  • The speaker’s statement that “Again and again it [the thunder] sounds” gives us a sense of nature’s cycles.
  • Things happen again and again in nature: seasons come and go; plants grow, die, and grow again; and the thunder sounds again and again. 
  • These lines echo, with a slight variation, the first two lines of the poem. The line “The voice that beautifies the land” is a refrain. So in this way, this line also embodies the idea of cycle and repetition. Just as the thunder sounds “again and again,” so these words in the poem are repeated. 
  • By saying that the voice of thunder “beautifies the land” here, the speaker suggests that thunder (and rain) do more than sustain us—they also make the landscape more beautiful.

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