Poetry Analysis: Soil, by Roger Mcgough

Roger McGough, a performance poet born in 1939, uses soil to explore a profound meaning. In this poem soil symbolises death and the passing of time. Whilst the structure of the poem does not have a rigid formulaic pattern, there are plenty of rhymes within the poem for example “man” and “can” lines 2 and 4, “weather” and “together” lines 7 and 8. There are three rhyming triplets interspersed within the poem in stanzas 3, 5 and 7. It is conversational poem in which the narrator talks to the soil and the impact on his life.

The beginning of the poem summarises the narrator’s attitude towards the soil - one of fear. He discusses how he prefers being indoors now (line 2) so this puts the conversation very much in the present:

“anytime to call would be the wrong time            
I'll avoid you as long as I can”   (Lines 3 and 4)

This shows the anxiety the narrator has which is a sharp contrast to Stanza 2 which switches to the past where the narrator explains that the soil was a friend when he was young. Death was remote and far away then. Soil was something to play in portrayed in the following lines.

“We rough and tumbled together
We were very close.” (Lines 8 and 9)

Children view the world in a different way from adults. In the same way the speaker tells us that he loved being with the soil before he saw it as a threat. It was exciting and filled his time. He enjoyed being muddy, but this changed when he began growing up. As he grew up there was a distance between the soil and the boy indicated when we learn:

“But gradually I grew away from you.” (Line 13)

As the boy leaves his childhood behind and is in the threshold of adulthood, the relationship becomes more distant. He acts differently and wants to stay clean and impress the girls he dates. The soil dislikes the change in him.  

“you were jealous so one day

I simply upped and moved away” (Lines 23 and 24)

He moves from his childhood home. When he sees the soil he no longer wants to...