Stanza one

A pleasant impression of nature is conveyed during the opening of the poem. At first the title seems unambiguous and straightforward as the opening lines seem only to list the sounds of the day.

In these lines MacCaig's observational skills are evident in the precision with which the sounds are described.

The horses clatter, the air creaked, with the sound of the lapwing, the waves emit a snuffling puff over the rock and the waterfall is the sound of black drums.

MacCaig uses onomatopoeia and alliteration to imitate these specific sounds, some of which seem to startle the speaker while others are more pleasing.

What is most significant is the acuteness and descriptiveness of these distinct sounds in emphasising how alert the speaker is to them.

The personification of the lapwing is light-hearted and playful. The bird becomes territorial, a landlord or gamekeeper, ushering the speaker from its domain.

The fact such delicate sounds can be heard suggests a still, practically silent environment.

Here silence is something enriching which allows the speaker to hear and appreciate the natural world.

The word choice suggests a speaker at ease, enjoying the moment. The list in this stanza is inverted, with the sound coming before the subject or object that makes them.

In this way, the speaker emphasises it is the sound, rather than the horses or bird, or ocean or waterfall that is most evocative and memorable about this day.

However, the word choice of black, the adjective used to describe the drums in the closing lines of the opening stanza hints this poem may have more serious undertones.

On its own, this image is an appropriate way to interpret the deep, thundering tones of the waterfall.

When we read further, the drums have a deeper meaning and become an ominous, brooding sound-effect marking a turning point and foreshadowing the bleaker ideas contained within the remainder of the poem.