Bogland Quotes and Analysis

We have no prairies
To slice a big sun at evening—
Everywhere the eye concedes to
Encroaching horizon,


This first stanza of the poem introduces a number of ideas that are crucial to the poem's arc. The speaker begins by describing lack: what this place does not have compared to others. By doing so, the speaker suggests that this landscape is built around lack.

The speaker also begins the poem with the pronoun "we," which tells the readers that this poem is meant to be understood as a collective perspective. Not once in the poem does the speaker refer to him or herself in the first-person singular. Of course, the assumption of a collective perspective asks the readers to either take at face value or question the work's claim to represent the common perspective of a group.

They've taken the skeleton
Of the Great Irish Elk
Out of the peat, set it up
An astounding crate full of air.


This striking image plays on the theme of futility and lack. The skeleton of the Great Irish Elk is found and restored, but the description of its hollowness emphasizes the hollowness of the discovery. By calling it an "astounding crate full of air," the speaker highlights both the awe that it strikes in those who see it, and its emptiness. The bogs preserve the history of Ireland, but the discoveries made are not otherwise useful.

The ground itself is kind, black butter

Melting and opening underfoot,
Missing its last definition
By millions of years.


Here, the speaker personifies the bogs, calling them "kind" and describing their yielding nature. The speaker also describes how the ground "misses its last definition," referring to the coal that the bogs will eventually become after millions of years. The speaker's feelings toward the land of Ireland appear mixed; the speaker's words are tinged with devotion, but the land's shortcomings are intrinsic to the speaker's relationship with it.