Response to Question 1

In “Fallen Forests” L.H. Sigourney is criticizing humans for being destructive to forests. She describes men cutting down trees as being a parasite to nature, claiming, “uptorn roots and prostrate columns mark the invader’s footsteps.” She is using an omniscient voice and spotlighting the effects of one man, a patriarch to his family, who is cutting down trees to build a home.  She also describes this destruction as cyclical, because she implies his children grow
up and he clears more land to build a bigger home. She is most critical when
she implies that the damage is irreparable as she says he may replant an acorn buthe will never be able to restore to nature what has been taken, at least within
two generations for his grandchildren to see.

Her main appeal to the audience is ethos as she mentions helpless creatures being displaced by the destruction of their environment and uses
emotionally charged diction, such as blackened wreck, “thief to prey on Nature’s bosom”, and “smote them recklessly.” Sigourney also shows a spiritual reverence for the forest. She makes the destruction appear ungodly as she personifies the cattle by saying that

“The wearied cattle from a thousand hills

Have found their shelter mid the heat of day;

Perchance in their mute worship pleasing Him

Who careth for the meanest He hath made.

I said, he entereth to the sacred groves

Where nature in her beauty bows to God,

And, lo! their temple arch is desecrate.”

Desecrating the forest by cutting trees is damaging God’s creation.

Also, she gives reverence to nature by referring to it as a motherly figure, “Methinks,’twere well Not as a spoiler or a thief to prey On Nature’s bosom, that sweet, gentle nurse Who loveth us, and spreads a sheltering couch.” By feminizing nature, like several other authors have done before her, Sigourney makes cutting trees seem monstrous, like a rebellious son stealing from his mother.

As evident in her criticism of the destruction man has caused, specifically to build a bigger home, I think Sigourney writes from the bioregional perspective that Plant identified. Plant wrote, “Bioregionalism means learning to become native to place, fitting ourselves to a particular place, not fitting a place to our pre-determined tastes. It is living within the limits and the gifts provided by a place, creating a way of life that can be passed on to future generations,” (81). This is what Sigourney is trying to convey to her audience as she appeals to ethos, gives spiritual reverence to nature, and gives the forest motherly qualities.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by kwalley on October 6, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I found your analysis of L. H. Sigourney’s “Fallen Forest” to be both insightful and highly reasoned. You take a very clear route in the dissection of the poem and I think find the true meaning behind Sigourney’s dramatic language. What most struck me about the poem and about your analysis was Sigourney’s implication that the damage we inflict on Nature is irreparable, no matter the paths we may take to try and repair our damage, “And mourn the rashness time can ne’er restore” (119). I think this is the most blatant verbalization of the effect of humans on nature that we have seen from any of the authors thus far. This one line signifies that we are rash in our destruction and neither understand the consequences of it nor understand that we cannot repair it.

    Sigourney, L.H. Scenes in My Native Land. Ch./Art: Excerpts p. 117-132. pub. James Munroe and Company 145

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