19 pages 38 minutes read

Derek Walcott

The Flock

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1985

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Poem Analysis

Analysis: “The Flock”

This poem is about the imagination working through a metaphorical winter, or a difficult period of low inspiration.

The speaker compares winter to a blank page, while his thoughts flee like birds migrating towards a warmer sky. As winter causes flocks of ducks to take to the sky, the speaker compares them to “arrows of yearning” (Line 4)—they are not leaving merely because of instinct, but because they have an active desire to leave the cold and escape to “our tropic light” (Line 6). Most likely the phrase “our tropic light” (Line 6) alludes to Walcott’s place of birth, Saint Lucia and the Caribbean—the warm tropics where migrating birds go in the wintertime. In the next lines, the speaker compares his imagination to the birds. Like them, it too is flying away—a process that feels like an assault to the speaker, who shudders at the “violence / of images migrating from the mind” (Lines 7-8). Emptied and attacked, the speaker imagines a “sepulchral knight” riding through a “Skeletal forest” (Line 9) that symbolizes the death of the speaker’s normally lively inspiration.

Traditionally, winter is a season of death: “the white funeral of the year” (Line 12). At the same time, this is only a temporary death.