English XI (Old Course)

The Poplar Field – Summary | The Magic of Words

Set in rural background, this poem deals with environment degradation in the modern world. It is an outcome of people’s quest for material heaven. It is nostalgic in tone. William Cowper feels like crying over the loss of favorite poplar field because it was a place for him to pass hi leisure and was a source of joy in the past. The loss of trees pokes his mind; he thinks that he too will die like the poplar trees, and be buried with earth and stone. Such a day is very near. Therefore, he concludes that human life is short and his pleasure is far shorter.


                The poplar trees on the bank of Ouse River are cut down; the shade is all gone. The sound of the cool trees is heard no more because the wind does not play with trees anymore; neither leaves sing any songs. You cannot see the reflection of the trees on Ouse River water either.
                The speaker viewed the poplar trees 12 years ago. Then they were on the Ouse River bank. Now they are all laid on the grass. The trees that provided him shade then are his seats now. He is sitting on one of the felled trees.

                With the felling of the trees, blackbird has migrated to a hazel bush to take a shelter from heat. The bird used to sing melodious song then. But it doesn’t sing any longer.

                The gloomy sight of the field turns the speaker to look at his own life span. He thinks his life is passing very fast. He is sure he will die sooner like the poplar trees. He will be buried with earth and stone before another group of trees grows in the same field.

                The barren sight makes the speaker meditate, over human pleasures. He concludes that human life is short, and human enjoyments are far shorter.


                The poem is written in the first person because the ideas/feelings expressed in the poem are the poet’s personal ideas/feelings. It is his experience. The poem is indirectly appeal for nature conservation. When the components of nature like trees and birds get disappeared we get no pleasures. Nor do we get oxygen to breathe in. Environment becomes dirty which causes several diseases in us and the disease in turn bring premature death to us. Therefore, the speaker seems to tell us to conserve the nature (poplar trees) for our own conservation.

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