In ‘The Flight of Two Geese’ the poet takes the reader back to a calming winter memory in which they reflect on the flight of two geese. The poem speaks on themes of nature, God/religion, and peace through simple syntax and a clear, direct style of diction that makes the images easily imaginable.
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Summary of The Flight of Two Geese
In the first lines of the poem, the speaker describes the setting and their initial vision of the geese in the sky. They come out of the clouds, honk, and then climb higher over the speaker and their companion. From there, the narrator is able to observe their flight and take note of their power, grace, and cool, calm way of carrying themselves. They appear to have no concerns in the world and make progress across the sky until they disappear into the clouds again.
Structure of The Flight of Two Geese
‘The Flight of Two Geese’ by Pat Ross is a four stanza poem that’s separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains do not follow a specific rhyme scheme, but there are moments of rhyme within the text. For instance, half-rhyme, also known as slant or partial rhyme. It is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance.
This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line or multiple lines of verse. In the first stanza, there is a very noticeable example with the endings of the words “spotted,” “climbed,” “sounded,” and “echoed”. Or, a less prominent example can be seen with the words “glided” and “slightest” in lines three and four of the second stanza.
There are also instances of internal, full rhyme. It is a kind of rhyme that is not constrained to the end of the lines but can appear anywhere. There is a good example in the second line of the first stanza with “low” and “below”.
Poetic Techniques in The Flight of Two Geese
Within ‘The Flight of Two Geese’ the poet makes use of several poetic techniques. These include alliteration, anaphora, enjambment, and repetition. The latter, repetition, is the use and reuse of a specific technique, word, tone or phrase within a poem. For example, in the first line of the second stanza, the use of “so” before the words “familiar,” “rich,” and “beautiful”. The poet speaks multiple times of the geese “bank[ing]” and “sound[ing]” in the sky as well.
Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. This is a very common technique and is more often than not present within lines of verse. For example, in lines two and three of the last stanza, “struck,” “sounded” and “say”.
Ross also makes use of anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. This technique can be seen in the second stanza with the use of “As” at the beginning of lines two and three, as well as in the third stanza with the use of “Their”.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. There are a number of examples within ‘The Flight of Two Geese’. The lack of end-line punctuation makes it feel as though every line is enjambed, but some have a more impactful transition than others. For example, between lines two and three of the second stanza.
Analysis of The Flight of Two Geese
The winter air had settled in, today was cold
Two geese slung in low, below the clouds
Then, spotted us and climbed up above us
And sounded their presence and it echoed
In the first stanza of ‘The Flight of Two Geese,’ the speaker begins by bringing the reader into an outdoor, winter scene. The narrator speaks of the settled nature of the air, evoking calmness and stillness that is interrupted by the “Two geese” that fly overhead. They came low out of the clouds but quickly “climbed up” again when they spotted “us”. By using the word “us” the speaker informs the reader that they were not alone at this moment. Someone else was with them, experiencing these same sights.
The geese make easy, smooth movements, in line with the calm atmosphere of the day. They “sounded their presence,” or honked, and it “echoed”. The lack of punctuation in ‘The Flight of Two Geese’ allows every line to run into the distance. Nothing feels concluded, boxed in, or controlled. The lines flow into one another, often using enjambment.
A winters tail, so familiar, so rich, so beautiful
As I watched, they maneuvered and banked
As each glided through a small opening
Without the slightest of care or fear
In the next four lines, the speaker gives more detail about their experience that day. The narrator describes the day as a “winters tail”. It was the embodiment of a “rich” and “beautiful” experience. They can look back on it now and tap into its familiarity and peace. It was not strange, unusual or surprising, but it was reflective and meditative.
The mood of the piece is furthered by the final line of this stanza. Here, the speaker describes how the geese “glided…Without the slightest of care or fear”. Despite their desire to fly above the speaker and their companion, they’ve returned to the clouds without worry.
Their gracefulness belied the power of their flight
Their eyesight keen and their navigation precise
They honed their craft, banked and turned again
Then, they pressed on, for some unknown destination
The next lines of ‘The Flight of Two Geese’ make use of anaphora through the repetition of “Their”. In this stanza, the speaker describes how more than anything, they took note of the “graceful” nature of the flight. Power hides beneath their graceful exterior.
As if coming to understand the creatures better, the speaker says that they have “keen” eyesight and a precise way of navigating. These two things, along with their general flight skills allow them to move through their world without trouble or concern. They do not struggle or fight for their place in the sky.
These details are juxtaposed by the fourth line in which the geese are suddenly pressing on, out of the speaker’s sight. They are headed some else, some “unknown” location the speaker will never be aware of.
Barely within my sight now, I reflected
And I was struck by their GOD given elegance
They sounded once more, as if to say farewell
And lifted themselves into the grey winter sky
In the final stanza, the poet takes on a reflective tone. They consider the nature of the geese and their inherent “GOD given elegance”. The speaker has received an insight into the life of these animals, their true inner selves.
The Flight of Two Geese’ concludes with the speaker describing the final sound of their honking. The narrator personified this sound, depicting it as a “farewell” and then as suddenly as they appeared, the geese are gone. They disappear back into the “grey winter sky”.