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Rathers - Summary of the Poem

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About the Poem

Mary Hunter Austin's poem Rathers is a well-known children's poem. Mary Austin was a novelist who lived from 1868 to 1934 in the United States. Many of her writings had a herbal theme, and she was passionate about preserving Native American arts and culture. Austin discusses the creatures she would choose to be if she didn't have to be herself in this poetry, and she gives descriptions of them in a sing-song tone. Let’s have a look at the lyrics of the poem. 

Lyrics of The Poem - Rathers

I know very well what I’d rather be

If I didn’t always have to be me!

I’d rather be an owl,

A downy feathered owl,

A wink-ity, blink-ity, yellow-eyed owl

In a hole in a hollow tree.

I’d take my dinner in the chipmunk town,

And wouldn’t I gobble the field mice down,

If I were a wink-ity, blink-ity owl,

And didn’t always have to be me!

I know very well what I’d like to do

If I didn’t have to do what I do!

I’d go and be a woodpecker,

A rap-ity, tap-ity, red-headed woodpecker

In the top of a tall old tree.

And I’d never take a look

At a lesson or a book,

And I’d scold like a pirate on the sea,

If only has to do what I like to do,

And didn’t always have to be me! 

Or I might be a puma,

A singe-coloured puma,

A slinking, sly-foot puma

As fierce as fierce could be!

And I’d wait by the waterholes where antelope


In the cool of the morning

And I do



That every any antelope could get away from


But if I were a hunter,

A Native American hunter—

I’d like to be a hunter, -

I’d have a bow made of juniper wood

From a lighting-blasted tree,

And I’d creep and I’d creep on that puma asleep

A flint tipped arrow,

An eagle feathered arrow,

For a puma kills calves and a puma kills sheep,

And he’d never eat any more antelope

If he once met up with me! 

Summary of The Poem - Rathers

In the poem Rathers, the poet describes what she wants to be if she wasn’t a poet, a human being. She wants to be a lot of things rather than being a human. At first, she wants to become a downy feathered and yellow-eyed owl. She says that if she’s an owl, she can live in the hole of the hollow tree. She also says that she can have her dinner at the “chipmunk town” and she can also eat the mice of the fields. Then again, she says that she will become a red-headed woodpecker and will sit on the top of the tall tree. If she becomes a woodpecker, she wouldn’t have to read any lessons and she will be free to scold anyone like a pirate of the sea. 

After that, she wants to become a singe-coloured, slinking, sly-foot puma. After becoming Puma, she wants to wait by the waterholes where the antelopes come for a drink so that she can gulp them up. At last, she wants to become a native American hunter. She wants to have an arrow made up of lighting-blasted juniper tree wood. 

About The Poet - Mary Hunter Austin

Mary Hunter Austin was born on September 9, 1868, as the fourth of six children to Susannah (née Graham) and George Hunter in Carlinville, Illinois. In 1888, she graduated from Blackburn College. In the same year, her family relocated to California and established a homestead in the San Joaquin Valley. On May 18, 1891, in Bakersfield, California, she married Stafford Wallace Austin. He was from Hawaii and a University of California, Berkeley graduate.

Austin dedicated 17 years to researching the lives of the Mojave Desert's indigenous peoples. Austin is best known for her ode to California's deserts, The Land of Little Rain (1903). Her play, The Arrow Maker, about Indian life, was produced at the New Theatre in New York in 1911, the same year she published a rhapsodic tribute to her acquaintance H. G. Wells in the American Magazine as a producer of "informing, vitalizing, indispensable books."

Austin and her husband were involved in the local California Water Wars, which resulted in the dredging of Owens Valley's water to supply Los Angeles. He relocated to Death Valley, California, after their battle was lost. Austin died in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on August 13, 1934. Mount Mary Austin was named in her honour in the Sierra Nevada.

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FAQs on Rathers - Summary of the Poem

1. What is the theme of the poem Rather?

The poem describes the poetess's dream animal if she weren't a human. This poem reveals that the poetess dislikes doing homework or sitting at her desk. She had always desired to be carefree.

2. What does the poetess want to be if she weren’t a human?

The poetess wants to be an owl, a woodpecker, a puma, and a native American hunter.