The “Summer Wind” and Sound in Underneath of Bough

“All others sound in awe/ Repeals its law;/ The bird is mute, the sea/ Sucks up its waves, from rain/ The burthened clouds refrain,/ To listen to thee in thy leafery,/ Thou unconfined,/ Lavish, large, soothing, refluent summer-wind!” (7).

In Books 1 and 2 of Underneath the Bough by Micheal Field, I was particularly struck by these lines due to their emphasis on sound and silence. The preceding sentence of the stanza referenced here describes the sound of the wind as an “orchestra” with “instruments in tune” as the wind blows through the trees (7). This is placed in juxtaposition with the following cited lines of natural elements defying the laws of nature by holding silence (mute birds, the sea absorbing its waves) to listen to the wind. I think these lines can be viewed as a metaphor for an audience listening to poetry as well, with the wind functioning as immaterial poetry “speaking” among the more solid/material natural world that stops to listen. 

Field parallels the emphasis on sound and silence as poetic subjects in their use of sound as a poetic device. For example, Field uses consonance and assonance so as to replicate this sense of fluidity, or the sound of wind rushing through leaves. They use repeated “s,” “e,” “th,” and “l” sounds, most evident in the lines “To listen to thee in thy leafery,/ Thou unconfined,/ Lavish, large, soothing, refluent summer-wind!” (7). Furthermore, Field’s word choice of “unconfined” here also plays into their use of enjambment, as some lines physically can’t be contained and run into each other when mentioning the sea, waves, rain, and clouds. This could be doubly significant as all of these subjects are parts of the water cycle and thus fluid or ever “refluent” in and of themselves, like the wind.

When thinking of this excerpt in relation to the rest of in Book 1 and 2, the overall wind motif can be viewed as an extended metaphor for lyric or poetry, as it is heavily referenced as being melodic, musical, and free. There is also repeated use of wing/flight imagery in the Books that might be related to Field’s aspiration for freedom in their lives, poetry, and relationships. Field also emphasizes how wind is fluid and changing frequently, perhaps referring to gender and sexual fluidity mentioned in the Introduction to Field’s work.