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‘I Will Go With My Father a-Ploughing’ by Joseph Campbell describes the months of a boy’s life as he works alongside his father, “ploughing,” “sowing,” and “reaping.” The poem begins with the speaker traveling with his father to “plough” the lands “by the sea.” It is there that he sees three different types of birds and hears his father singing the appropriate song for this time of year, the “Plough-Song.”
About the poet
Joseph John Campbell (1879-1944) was a famous Irish poet and lyricist. He was born in Belfast in an Irish family. His literary activities began with songs. In 1905 he moved to London. His famous poems include ‘At Harvest’, ‘On Waking’, ‘The Old Woman’, etc.
The poem revolves around the theme of a farmer’s life in a village. He works very hard to prepare the land for sowing crops. He works in the field all day long and procedures different kinds of crops. He rises early in the morning and goes to the field to seed, weed, or harvest.
I will go with my Father a-ploughing To the Green Field by the sea, And the rooks and corbies and seagulls Will come flocking after me. I will sing to the patient horses With the lark in the shine of the air, And my Father will sing the Plough-Song That blesses the cleaving share.
The speaker is remembering the days in which he travelled with his father to the places he was needed. The father and son are “ploughing” a field. He goes with his father to plough the land by “the Green Field.” While the son is helping his father, he sees a number of different birds that inhabit the area. The birds come and “flock” after him. He wanders the landscape and “sing to the…horses” who are helping with the ploughing. They are patient and have no reason to rush through the day. All of these sights and sounds represent a specific time of year to the speaker, as well as a specific way of living. This is how he grew up and how he remembers these days.
I will go with my Father a-sowing To the Red Field by the sea, And the merls and robins and thrushes Will come flocking after me. I will sing to the striding sowers With the finch on the flowering sloe, And my Father will sing the Seed-Song That only the wise men know.
The second stanza mimics the first in that the speaker is remembering the times in which he and his father were “sowing” the land they had previously ploughed. They are planting this year’s crops in what is now the “Red Field by the sea.” Due to their previous actions, the land has changed, just as the months have. At this point, three different birds come to the son and “flock…after [him].” He is followed by these new companions and now he takes on some of the singing. He serenades the other “striding sowers” of the land and his father sings “the Seed-Song.” All of these actions are suited for, and connected to, a certain time of year. The speaker’s memories of his life are combined into these three distinct categories, the last of which comes in the final stanza.
I will go with my Father a-reaping To the Brown Field by the sea, And the geese and pigeons and sparrows Will come flocking after me. I will sing to the weary reapers With the wren in the heat of the sun, And my Father will sing the Scythe-Song That joys for the harvest done.
In the last stanza, it is time for the son to accompany his father to “reap” the land they have previously “ploughed” and “seeded.” They gather the crops they’ve grown in the “Brown Field by the sea.” Time continues to progress, and their actions have changed the image of the landscape further. Once more the poet follows his pattern, stating that three more birds, this time “geese and pigeons and sparrows,” follow after his speaker. The speaker continues his singing, this time to the “weary reapers” who are tasked with the retrieval of the crops. The poem concludes with the father singing the “Scythe-Song,” a reference to the curved blade used to cut down crops. The poet is hoping to emphasize the importance of different times of the year, as well as their similarities, in this dream-like narrative.