The Field Mouse by Gillian Clarke

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The Field Mouse
Main ideas
Tells of hay making in Wales, and how the children find the dead mouse, yet in Bosnia, where the war is taking
place, the children are the ones being killed
Helplessness, as unable to do anything to save the mouse, or to prevent events in Bosnia
Fear of the news and knowledge of the tragedies which are taking place, and the idea of how fragile the earth
Sense of guilt and responsibility to children, as damaging the earth hinders their future
Three stanzas of nine lines each, which vary in length, could be reflecting the freedom of the natural world, or
the lack of order in the war-torn world.
Each stanza tells a different part of the story ­ first- background about the hay making and war, the second is
about the death of the mouse, the third about Clarke's nightmare vision.
No set rhythm, flows like natural speech, as a person recounting experiences
The title suggests it is a poem about the countryside: only when we get into the poem do we realise that it is
also about war and conflict. The field mouse is important though as a symbol of fragility
In the present tense, making the events more vivid to us, could also suggest the poem could also be about any
war, anywhere in the world
Contrasts between idealised rural scene and the horrors of war. It is "Summer in Europe" the time of hay
making for all farmers, which is traditionally fun and joyful; yet in Wales they are hay making while in Bosnia
they are fighting.
We are reminded that even a peaceful activity like hay making contains violence. Clarke acknowledges her guilt
as she looks at the mouse "we have crushed". Seems to suggest that violence can be unintentional, or that we
are all guilty for war.
Parallels between hay making and war run throughout the poem. In Wales the dusk garden is "inhabited by the
saved"- the animals that escaped the tractor, making us think of the human refugees who fled over the border
to escape the Bosnian conflict. Also, the word "land" refers both to the farmer's land where the hay is grown,
and to land in the sense of a person's country, their 'fatherland' - the territory they fight over in a war.
The poem ends with a nightmare vision - Clarke dreams of the children dancing in the hay field, as vulnerable as
the mouse, as if they were in a war situation with gunfire all around. The neighbour who gave their land
sweetness in the first stanza has become their enemy- in the Bosnian conflict, neighbours of different religions
who had lived in peacefully together for generations fought against each other
Metaphor of "snare drum" makes reader think of troops being led into battle, yet sounds glorious and exciting
"The air hums with jets" due to training as UK is involved in war, onomatopoeia "hums" creates a more serious
sound to the poem
"wave breaks" creates metaphorical image of the ocean, and the never ending wave of it, and creates sound
in readers mind of the grass.
Childs hands metaphorically shown to be a nest, suggesting a desire to care and protect, however, there is
nothing that can be done, as them mouse will die anyway. Suggests how as much as the people in the UK care
about and want to help prevent what is happening in the war, there is nothing they can do.
In describing the mouse's suffering as "agony as big as itself" we get the idea that even though we may regard
the mouse's suffering as unimportant, for the mouse it is huge. This suggests that we should not underestimate
another's pain, or consider the suffering in war to be trivial
"Star goes out in its eye" suggests the end of life, but also a loss of beauty, as people are often said to have a
sparkle in their eye if they are happy, healthy and enjoying life, which is seen to be beautiful. Could suggest the
Bosnian people have been lost these things.

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The field is portrayed to have been injured, possibly from the blood of the small creatures being poured out
onto it, and suggesting how the land has been injured in Bosnia…read more


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