Study Guide

Twelfth Song of Thunder Themes

  • Man and the Natural World

    “Twelfth Song of Thunder” is full of images of nature. We get thunder and grasshoppers and clouds and grass. It’s a song that glorifies nature in all its beauty. The song suggests we need to take account of nature. That’s because it’s an extremely important force in our lives. Not only does it sustain us, but it makes us happy. It’s beautiful, awesome, and full of harmony. So even though the poem doesn’t explicitly mention people, it suggests the attitude that we, as people, should take to nature: we should appreciate it, not destroy it like we’re doing with all our SUV fumes and hairspray.

    Questions About Man and the Natural World

    1. Why are the “voices” of nature important? Why do we need to pay attention to them?
    2. How does the poem relate the big things of nature (like thunder) to the small things of nature (like a grasshopper)? What’s the relationship between these big and small things?
    3. How does the poem suggest that nature is a harmonious entity?

    Chew on This

    The poem shows us that the sounds of nature are just as important as the sights of nature.

    Sure, as the speaker says, the natural world is beautiful to look at, but humanity isn’t as dependent upon it as the poem suggests.

  • Spirituality

    There isn’t any explicit mention of spirituality or gods up in the clouds in this poem, and yet “Twelfth Song of Thunder” evokes spirituality through its description of nature. The poem suggests that nature itself, with its many beautiful voices, is a source of spirituality. We just need to look and listen to the beauty of nature in order to get a sense of the divine, and to have access to a beautiful spiritual experience. So next time we’re looking for God, maybe we should just stare long and hard at a tree. Maybe the leaves will speak to us?

    Questions About Spirituality

    1. In what ways does the poem suggest that the “voices” of nature are spiritual voices?
    2. How does the “land” nourish the speaker not only physically, but also spiritually?
    3. How is the spiritual experience that nature gives us all-encompassing? How might the speaker answer this question?

    Chew on This

    The poem proves that we don’t need to go to church to have a spiritual experience, we need to go to nature.

    Actually, since there’s no mention of God, this isn’t a poem about spirituality.

  • Awe and Amazement

    “Twelfth Song of Thunder” is a poem that sweeps from the grand spectacles of nature (like thunder) to the teeny-tiny spectacles of nature (like grasshoppers). Even though the speaker considers both big and small sounds, and big and small natural scenes, there’s a sense of awe and amazement in considering all of these things. Given that most of us spend most of our time cooped up in apartments or houses, probably glued to a screen of some sort or another, we tend to forget just how amazing nature can be. When was the last time we looked at a grasshopper? This is a poem that reminds us of all of the wonderful things that nature has to offer.

    Questions About Awe and Amazement

    1. How do we get a sense of the speaker’s awe and amazement in this poem?
    2. Do you think the “smaller” voices of nature—like the grasshopper’s—can elicit as much awe and amazement as the “bigger” voices, such as the thunder’s? Why or why not?
    3. What’s the relationship between attentiveness and awe and amazement in this song? Why do we need to be attentive in order to experience awe and amazement?

    Chew on This

    The speaker of this poem shows us that awe and amazement are just a point of view. It’s not nature that makes us feel awe and amazement, it’s how we look and listen to nature that matters.

    Sorry there, grasshopper, but big, spectacular things are more likely to give us a sense of awe and amazement than little things.

  • Time

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could circle back in time sometimes, rewind back to a moment before we said that stupid thing in class, or before we made a fool of ourselves in front of our crush. It’s wishful thinking, we know. But “Twelfth Song of Thunder” presents an idea of time as a circle. As we’ve mentioned, we’ll find a lot of repetition and refrains in this poem. And even though the word “time” doesn’t actually show up in the poem, it’s evoked through repetition. And what does the repetition do? It gives us a cyclical sense of time. That is, the poem suggests that time doesn’t move forward in a straight line (which is the way that we’re used to thinking about it in the modern world) but rather that it moves in a circle.

    Questions About Time

    1. How does the repetition work to give us a cyclical sense of time in “Twelfth Song of Thunder”?
    2. In what ways is time depicted as predictable and continuous in this song?
    3. How can the “voices” in the poem be understood not only as sounds but also measurements of time?

    Chew on This

    This poem doesn’t mention the word time. It’s more focused on nature than any concept of time’s passage.

    In this song, time is cyclical, rather than linear.