An allusion in a work of literature is a reference to another literary work. It can be a reference to a person, an event, or simply a phrase that occurs in another work. When the poet writes in line 8 about his awareness of the body of water that is nearby, he uses words that echo a well-known phrase in the Bible, from Psalm 23: ‘‘He leads me beside still waters.’’ The pronoun ‘‘he’’ refers to God. The psalm presents God as a shepherd who ‘‘makes me lie down in green pastures,’’ which is echoed in ‘‘The Peace of Wild Things,’’ as the poet also lies down in nature. Allusions may simply give a wider frame of reference to the work in which they occur, or they may serve a more complex, ironic function, serving to contrast or otherwise distinguish between the way the common words or phrases are used in the two works. In ‘‘The Peace of Wild Things,’’ although the Biblical allusion in the poem is clear, there is also a marked contrast. In the poem there is no benevolent God leading the poet on and giving him comfort and peace. The poet himself takes the initiative to go into the presence of nature, and it is nature itself, not an external God, that provides the feeling of peace.
The poem is written in free verse, an open form of poetry that does not rely on traditional elements of rhyme and meter. Line lengths and patterns of stress are irregular. In this poem, the line breaks are largely determined by the syntax, the arrangement of the words in a sentence. The poem consists of five sentences of varying length. The first sentence takes up the first five lines and after that the sentences become progressively shorter and simpler, in keeping with the thematic movement from a complex to a more simple state of mind on the part of the poet. The varying positions of the periods that end each sentence create some variety in the spoken rhythm. The poem makes no use of rhyme except for the fact that the end of the first line rhymes with the end of the last line, which creates a sense of completion, rather like a piece of music that returns to the home key at the end.
Poetry for Students, Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Poetry, Volume 30, Wendell Berry, Gale Cengage Learning, 2009