‘Late Spring’ by Owen Sheers: analysis 

In Late Spring Sheers describes helping his grandfather castrate lambs as a little. The form of the poem consists of eight tercets of free verse. The title refers to the time of the year the lambs are supposed to be born. However, mSpring’ suggests new life, creating a contrasting image to one of the main themes of the poem: castration.
In the first stanza, Sheers write about how helping his grandfather castrate the lambs made him fee like a man. In the next two stanzas, he describes the tool for the action and how his grandfather positioned the sheep. Stanzas four, five and six describe the placing of the band around the testicles of the lambs. In the final two stanzas, Sheers looks back on the weeks after the castration, when he walks around the fields and sees the lambs’ tail lying on the ground. 
Sheers, in the first stanza, writes that ‘it made me feel like a man when I helped my grandfather castrate the early lambs’. This is ironic considering the anthology is about being a man, and the castrating is emasculating the lambs. He also used the words ‘feel like a man’, suggesting his age and that he is yet to become a man. 
The third line of stanza two is the longest in the poem, compliment the words of the line: and stretching them across the made-to-purpose tool. The long line gives us the impression of the stretching of the ‘hard orange O-rings’. 
Stanza four then continues with Sheer describing the movement of his grandfathers hand ‘like a man milking’. This might be a reference to farming and other tasks Sheers carried out as a young boy. The word ‘coax’ suggest they almost need persuading to move ‘up into the sack’. 
Sheers uses the metaphor “two soaped beans into a delicate purse” to describe the lamb’s testicles in the in the fourth stanza. The rhyme of ‘purse’ and ‘reverse’ gives the reader a feeling of enclosure, similar to the shape of the O-rings; whilst the metaphor gives a, perhaps misleading, feeling of tenderness and care.
The third line of the fifth stanzas is the shortest of the poem: ‘crown them’. The three syllables emphasise the speed of the action, whilst the words describe the machine which looks like an upside- down crown. 
The last two stanzas begin with Sheers reflecting on walking in the fields, weeks after the castration: w’hen I walked the field weeks later, both could be counted.’ The word ‘both’ refers to the testicles as well as the lambs’s tails, which he then compares to ‘catkins’. The castration and cutting off lambs’ tail is a crucial part of farming in Wales: this emphasise the strong link between Sheers and his heritage. He then presents the image of seeds being sown on the ground using the metaphor: ‘a strange harvest of the seeds we’d sown’. Here, Sheers is contrasting the image of growing seeds – and so creating new life – with taking away the possibility of making new life, in the form of castration. 
Throughout the poem, we see Sheers’ relationship with his grandfather progress through the use of pronouns. For example, in the first three stanzas he uses pronouns like ‘I’, ‘my’ and ‘he’. However, after ‘bonding’ with his grandfather over traditional farm-associated tasks like castration and snipping tails, he begins to use pronouns like ‘we’ and ‘our’. 

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One thought on “‘Late Spring’ by Owen Sheers: analysis 

  1. Lots of typos !

    “considering the anthology is about being a man, and the castrating is emasculating the lambs.” – clumsy expression – ‘is’ especially, as if this is a fact, need to be using lit crit. terms/expressions such as ‘it could be argued’ etc.

    Too much focus on ‘meaning’ – trying to give prose version of phrase or line of poetry instead of evaluating why chosen language/device works so well, and how it adds to the meaning of the poem as a whole.

    Whole poem is paradoxical/ironic with ‘doing a man’s job’ of preventing MALE lambs (lambs include both gender) ‘doing their job’ of impregnating females.

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