Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

The Wild Geese

The central symbol of “Wild Geese” is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a flock of wild geese. The geese symbolize the healing sense of liberation afforded by the natural world. As the speaker attempts to redirect the reader’s attention away from their personal issues and toward the grandeur of nature, they seize on a flock of migrating wild geese as a fitting image. The speaker tells us that the geese are flying “high in the clean blue air” (12). The sense of vertical height in this image conjures a strong sense of freedom, inviting the reader to imagine the sweeping vantage such height affords. In addition to enjoying the liberating expansiveness of the sky, the geese also benefit from the restorative purity of the “clean blue air” through which they pass on their long journey home. This image of the geese on a healing homeward journey symbolizes the kind of restorative homecoming we readers might have if only we could learn to take “[our] place / in the family of things” (lines 17–18).

“Deep Trees”

Within their description of different vital and rejuvenating landscapes, the speaker makes a passing reference to trees in lines 8–11:

     Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
     are moving across the landscapes,
     over the prairies and the deep trees,
     the mountains and the rivers.

Two things stand out about the speaker’s reference to trees. First, like “the rivers” in the next line, the speaker presents the trees as being emblematic of the landscape mentioned in the same line. Just as rivers are quintessential features of mountains, trees are proposed as emblematic features of prairies. Although trees certainly do exist in prairie landscapes, it seems odd to suggest that they’re more representative of prairies than, say, grasses. Since trees appear only sporadically in the prairie, clustered in small groves, it would make more sense to associate trees with the forest. With this oddity in mind, the speaker may be using the trees very subtly, to symbolize the importance of standing tall and proud, even in places where you might feel out of place. The second thing worth noting about the reference to the trees is the adjective that qualifies it: “deep trees.” Whereas the parallel reference to “the rivers” in the next line remains unadorned, the speaker’s use of “deep” emphasizes the roots that enable trees to grow taller. In this sense, the deep trees symbolize resilience.