Personification helps writers or speakers to emphasize how we may understand non-human entities. The technique creates visualization and sympathy. For some of us, it also reflects the reality that Spirit is in all, and as such, we relate to other entities, whether they be plant, animal, or mineral, in a way that makes sense to us.
Dr. Angelou personifies Nature in this powerful, evocative work. Why would she? Well, I wish I could have had the opportunity to enjoy a meal with her and speak about such ideas, but I did not. Perhaps she did such because in the normal course of events, we do not pay much attention, certainly political, ethical, or sociological attention, to rocks, rivers, or trees. They’re just there, we assume. However, giving them voice as Dr. Angelou does allows these elements of Nature the ability to evoke extraordinary human concerns — a very Romantic characteristic.
The Rock cries, which indicates an alarm, a call to attention and awakening for us to take stock of where we have been and where we are headed. The River sings in melodious beauty that allures and moves us to observe the inherent beauty in everyone. Music appeals to our emotions, and as the reader becomes enrapt in the song, we are suddenly directed to observe the ugly way we have polluted the River’s shores, symbolic of our society’s polluting the dignity of humanity with bigotry and hatred borne of ego. Such lower level energies produce even lower ego energies, which will always result in more unfavorable issues like war and destruction. Our history is littered with these as reflected by the littered banks of the River.
Maya Angelou is not interested in the explanation of the poetic, literary technique of personification. She chose it to leverage power to call us to awaken, and if we are to have any hope of movement towards the type of progress that will yield significance, fulfillment, and meaningful challenges and enrichment of this planet in all three kingdoms — plant, animal, and mineral — then we must hear Nature herself address us. We, apparently, have not had as much sense as the Rock, River, and Tree.
Here is my revised article from my original post on social media and my website.
What Can We Learn from a River’s Song?: Maya Angelou’s Personification of Nature
As I continue with this poem of Maya Angelou’s, so reminiscent of Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, and British Romantics in many ways, I wonder at the message this poem conveys, still applicable, now more than ever. The choice to personify elements of Nature like “the Rock, the River, the Tree” reveals Spirit-essence in all. The energies of life beat, vibrate, radiate from all in this Universe and wait to be tapped for their wisdom. We raise our minds, souls, and bodies to perceive these frequencies by choosing to hear Heart, discover Self, and create Purpose — and humbly learn. Here are my thoughts and response to you, Dr. Angelou, about your profound words of love and light.
From the Rock’s testimony of the past, pronouncements and observations of the present, and prophecy of the future, as we read we seamlessly slide into the voice of the River: “Across the wall of the world, / A river sings a beautiful song…” The River offers her shores, a place to consider her lament.
Not many of us consider the unnatural boundaries humanity has traced on the face of globes and maps, those shapes and entities defined by us as nations; somehow to Ego, they offer a sense of security in separation, arbitrary lines that many interpret as “This far and no further; we are better than you.” Quite often, rivers demarcate the borders: “Each of you a bordered country / Delicate and strangely made proud / Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.” One of the functions of Ego is to isolate. The existence of nations indicates Ego-energy. Their existence illustrates how people, mostly men, deliberately chose Ego and denied Heart in establishing distinctions that create discord and, ultimately, war.
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!