Giverny by Ian Pople explores the beauty of nature, the poet reflecting on Giverny, France. The landscape is vast and beautiful, Pople moving from small aspects to larger ones. There is a slight impression that humanity is impinging on nature. Both with the ‘honey’ of the bees and the treatment of the ‘falcon’, humanity seems to be at odds with the beauty of nature.
Summary of Giverny
Pople touches the poem with color, exuding ‘light blue’ and ‘white’ all over the place. Color is central to the poem, the poet using this to give nature further radiance. Pople begins the poem with an image of bees, moving through aspects of the landscape until he reaches the ‘stream’ that runs through the village. The poet gives a halcyon depiction of the natural life within Giverny, France.
You can read the full poem here.
Form and Structure
Ian Pople splits Giverny into twelve stanzas, each measuring two lines. There is incredible regularity within the poem, most stanzas being enjambed to increase the flow between them. This flowing of one line to another could echo the ‘stream that ran’ through the town. Simultaneously, this could be reflecting the peace that nature brings to the town, the flowing language emphasizing the mellifluous quality of nature.
The regularity in stanza length could also reflect the stability that nature provides. It is an eternal force of beauty, Pople focusing on the ways it lights up a town. The regular stanza structure reflects this support, nature being able to brighten any place. The regularity also provides a sense of ease, with the poem having no truncated moments of metrical pause. The language, reflecting the content, is peaceful and still.
Key Theme in Giverny
Pople uses Giverny to explore the beauty of nature. Nature, both as a beautiful force as much as an endless one, is inspiring to the poet, filling Giverny with natural images. These images resurface constantly, everything blurring into one beautiful depiction of nature. From the colors to the animals and trees, everything in Giverny seems naturally perfect.
One of the central techniques that Pople uses in constructing Giverny is enjambment. The flowing of one line to the next, without the interruption of punctuation, crates a harmonious flow across the poem. Images of one form of nature blur into another, the poem exuding a sense of unity. This further demonstrates the connection that nature has, the colors of different aspects all blurring together. The flowing meter of the poem helps to support the lighthearted tone, Pople respectfully watching the natural world.
Pople also uses repetition throughout the poem. Repetition creates an echo of sounds, causing alliteration across lines. When Pople writes ‘who had used it, who had slept… who had slept’, forms of consonance, assonance, and sibilance all begin to appear. This repeated sound structure brings a further musicality to the poem, Pople furthering the beauty of nature through the connected soothing sounds.
Summer dust settled over the garden(…)and a falcon, its talons folded under
The poem begins by focusing instantly on the semantics of nature, drawing upon the season ‘Summer’. The verb ‘settled’ creates sibilance across these words, starting the poem with a soothing sound. Moreover, ‘settled’ creates a peaceful atmosphere, the pace of life in Giverny being relaxing.
The vivacity of nature, shown in both flowers that are ‘in bloom’ and the garden ‘full of bees’ demonstrates the beautiful power of nature. It is everywhere, flooding Giverny with an array of natural beauty.
The word ‘marketable’ is strangely out of place in the poem. The presence of the capitalistic semantic stands out against the peaceful natural imagery. Perhaps Pople is suggesting that human consumerism is antithetical to the development of nature, ‘honey’ just one example of humans turning nature into profit.
The beautiful colors, ‘light blue/and white’ create a soft backdrop for the natural scene. This is then furthered by the brighter ‘lemon-yellow room’. The adjective ‘lemon’ both functions to classify the type of ‘yellow’, while also being drawn from the semantic field of nature itself. This is a beauty image, a sunny yellow filling the poem.
This is then mirrored by the ‘two pale blues’, Pople using the color spectrum to justify the beauty of nature. Everywhere he looks, nature and color fill the scene.
because the hands were difficult, though(…)perhaps it was easier to leave the eyes out
These stanzas focus on the presence of a ‘falcon’ in Giverny. It seems to have been captured, ‘its talons folded under’ and stored inside. It desires to ‘flee’ the scene, wanting to fly ‘towards the horizon’. The repetition of ‘fleeing’ develops this idea, Pople knowing the bird’s desire for freedom. It does not want to be unified with humanity, the unification of ‘flesh and… spirit’ scaring the bird. Pople is discussing the bird being eaten, a stalk contrast to the natural beauty of the first four stanzas.
Yet, he quickly moves on from this human consumption of nature, returning to the natural scene. Perhaps Pople is trying to ignore the natural abuse that humans partake in.
altogether, as in the small Cézanne upstairs,(…)who had slept in the dew in the summer.
Pople focuses on the paintings of Cézanne, a French artist known for his impressionism. Cézanne is known for painting beautiful scenery, large expansive impressionistic paintings of scenery. This is perhaps reflected in Pople’s own writings, the poet creating beautiful depictions of scenery.
Pople draws away from the paintings of Cézanne, retuning ‘Outside’ to nature. He watches as ‘leaves fell from bamboo’, the imagery of leaves gently falling evoking a delicate tone. The inclusion of the sound of water in the ‘Japanese water garden’ furthers this tone, the running water evoking the engagement of another sense. The multi-sensory imagery again demonstrates the beauty of nature.
Color returns to the poem, ‘green stripes’ and ‘light grey stripes’ filling the leaves with color. The personification of the ‘leaves’ as ‘gathered’ suggests that they are sentient, collecting color as they continue with their day. This furthers a sense of community, nature being related to humanity.
Finally, the last stanza of the poem closes on a sense of peace. Pople focuses on the state of ‘slept’, the somnambulistic leaves happy in the ‘dust’. This is repeated again, ‘slept in the dew’ focusing on a peaceful image of leaves resting on the ground.
The poem closes by repeating the first word of the poem, Pople once again focusing on the radiant imagery of ‘summer’. The cyclic nature of the poem could be a reflection of the seasons, things changing, but always returning to how they once were.
William Carlos Williams writes Winter Trees in awe of the brilliance of nature. Both Williams and Pople appreciate the natural world, writing in praise of the many beautiful features. Yet, while Pople’s tone is revered and respectful, Williams instead draws a connection between humanity and nature, placing them on the same level.
Another poem that explores the power of nature is The Hill Fort by Owen Sheers. Yet, while Pople explores the brilliance and beauty of nature, Sheers focuses on the support nature can provide to humanity. Upon losing his son, Sheers’ character screams into the wind, finding something big enough to blame. Both present nature as beautiful and powerful, but go about it in very different ways.