What Is the Summary of the Poem "To a Waterfowl"?

"To a Waterfowl" by William Cullen Bryant describes a waterfowl flying alone through the sky and conveys the thoughts stimulated by this sight. By the end of the poem, the lone waterfowl becomes a metaphor for the speaker's soul going through life.

The poem begins with the speaker asking a solitary waterfowl flying through the sunset where it is going. In the next stanza, the speaker discusses how a hunter might see the bird flying but wouldn't be able to hurt the bird because it is so distant. The subsequent stanza returns to the opening question, asking the bird whether it is headed toward the sea, a river or a lake.

The speaker then muses on how the bird knows where to go. He mentions that "a Power" is guiding it. Even though the coast along which and the air through which the bird is flying is "pathless," this power helps the bird find its destination. The speaker then marvels at the bird's stamina, mentioning how it continues to fly even though the land looks like such a welcome resting place. He knows that it can soon join its fellow birds in a safe nest at the end of its flight.

As the bird disappears, the speaker then turns to his own situation, comparing his life to the flight of the bird. He ends the poem by saying that the same power that guides the bird so surely also guides the speaker's "steps aright."