“Old Woman With a Goiter”- By Erica Levy MacAlpine


“Just as in a field a herd of cows
will lean and clang their copper cauldrons
like the rain, with dawn breaking pink
upon their bangles, and stand there blotched,
humbled and hindered by their own sound,
and crumple their knees, dumbstruck,
while every jerk of their backs and involuntary
gesture registers the ringing of a bell,
so this old woman stood behind a mountain
spruce, struck by something in the field,
a row of phlox or patch of bluebell,
holding her spray of yellow gentians,
while that great ball shifted on her neck,
ripe as a stitch of loganberry.”
(The poem is taken from the weekly poems of the Seed magazine-)

The simile of the herd of cows is visually effective use of imagery .The beauty of the poem is in the extendedness of the image used with a word-picture beautifully created as though it is from a painting in the living room.Imagine the placid countryside and a herd of cows leaning towards one another with the copper cauldrons clanging ( like rain ,another image within the image),with dawn breaking pink upon their bangles .The cows are standing there blotched,humbled ,and hindered by their own sound(the poet is perhaps referring to the blotches of shadows on the cows)and the involuntary jerks on their bodies caused by their reactions to the clang of the cauldrons as they move their heads.

While the image of the cows is elaborate ,the old woman is described with the same amount of vividness .She stands behind a mountain and is struck by something in the field,a row of phlox or patch of bluebell ,holding a spray of gentians ,while the goiter on her neck shifts as a stitch of loganberry.

The vividness of the description of the cows and the old woman is almost painting-like.


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