Twelfth Song of Thunder



‘Twelfth Song of Thunder’ is a Navajo poem that focuses on the beauty of the earth and all the creatures that walk upon it. It features in a traditional Navajo Mountain Chant ceremony that’s performed to bring rain. The song was sung in an effort to please the natural world and hopefully get it to do what the Native American people needed it to survive. 

Twelfth Song of Thunder by Anonymous



Twelfth Song of Thunder’ by Anonymous is a simple, powerful poem in which the speaker calls upon the sound of thunder and the voice of a grasshopper.

The first stanza is focused on the powerful “voice” of thunder, one that comes along with dark clouds and rain. It beautifies the world with its grand sound and the rain that it brings. The second stanza is structurally the same, but this time the speaker is talking to a grasshopper, which makes much quieter and less obvious sounds. But, it too is tied to a rainstorm. The speaker feels that both elements, the quiet and the loud, have equally important roles to play in the world. 



In ‘Twelfth Song of Thunder,’ the anonymous poet engages primarily with themes of nature and humankind’s relationship to nature. This speaker presents a perspective on the world that is less prevalent today than it was when this piece was written. Today, human beings do not feel as connected to nature as some groups, such as the Navajo, were then and are today. In the contemporary perceptive, rain is either something that just happens or something that’s explained by science. In the world of this poem/chant, it is more than that. It has its own agency and its own power. It comes when the conditions are right and can be inspired by the songs of those who need it most. 


Structure and Form

Twelfth Song of Thunder’ by Anonymous is a two stanza poem made up of six lines, known as sestets. The poem was traditionally performed as a chant. It does not make use of one metrical pattern or rhyme scheme, but there is evidence of both within it. Repetition occurs, creating the feeling needed for a successful chant. The same words are repeated individually as well as within the entire refrains. 


Literary Devices

There are several interesting literary devices at work in ‘Twelfth Song of Thunder.’ These include but are not limited to repetition and imagery. There are several different kinds of repetition at work in the poem—for instance, anaphora and refrain. The latter is a kind of repetition that involves longer sections of text. For instance, the line “The voice that beautifies the land!” and “Again and again, it sounds.” 

Anaphora is another kind of repetition, one that’s concerned with the use and reuse of words at the beginning of lines. For example, “The” starts the first three lines of both stanzas and the final, sixth line. There is also a more general reputation of words, such as “The Voice,” which helps give these lines a chant-like feeling. Imagery is another important device at work in the two stanzas. It occurs when the writer creates images that are particularly evocative or interesting. They should force a reader to use their senses to imagine them. For example, the “dark cloud” in line four of the first stanza and the “voice of the grasshopper” in line three of the second stanza.


Analysis, Stanza by Stanza

Stanza One 

The voice that beautifies the land! 

The voice above,

The voice of thunder

Within the dark cloud 

Again and again it sounds,

The voice that beautifies the land. 

In the first stanza of ‘Twelfth Song of Thunder,’ the speaker begins with the line that’s used at the beginning and end of both stanzas. This is known as a refrain, one of several elements that make this piece feel like a chant even when one is reading it off the page. In the speaker’s mind, the voice that comes from the sky is the “voice of thunder.” It occurs again and again. It’s powerful and likely quite loud, if the speaker is indeed talking about thunder. It’s clear that this speaker sees something more than the naturally occurring rainstorm at work. There is a power there that they’re trying to tap into.

Readers should take note of the use of personification in this line when the poet gives thunder a “voice.” Usually, thunder is referred to as a sound, one that occurs without conscious choice. But, in this poem, the sound of the thunder and the sound of the grasshopper are more than that. They are something speaking through nature. 


Stanza Two 

The voice that beautifies the land! 

The voice below,

The voice of the grasshopper 

Among the plants 

Again and again it sounds,

The voice that beautifies the land.

In the second stanza of ‘Twelfth Song of Thunder,’ the speaker turns the “voice of the grasshopper.” This is juxtaposed against the dark clouds and the sound of thunder in the first stanza. The speaker is talking to both sides, the small and the large, the loud and the quiet. It latter also beautifies the land. All voices, no matter their strength, have an important role to play in this speaker’s vision of the world. The grasshopper’s voice and the thunder’s voice helps to beautify the land. 


Similar Poetry

Readers who enjoyed ‘The Twelfth Song of Thunder’ should also consider reading some other strongly nature-based poems. For example, ‘Patience Taught By Nature’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ‘Hymn to the Spirit of Nature’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lines Written in Early Spring’ by William Wordsworth. The latter was published in Lyrical Ballads in 1798 and depicts the narrator sitting under a tree and contemplating the changes society has undergone. In ‘Patience Taught by Nature,’ Browning attempts to remind the reader that there is a whole beautiful world beyond one’s everyday problems. In ‘Hymn to the Spirit of Nature,’ Shelley depicts the relationship between Prometheus and Asia, the Spirit of Nature. 

Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.

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