The first poem in Section II is "The Sheep Child," which Dickey has said is the poem on which he will "stand or fall." In it the sort of transcendent vision Dickey aspires to in fusing the human and nonhuman worlds in his two "Reincarnation" poems comes forth almost perfectly: the sheep child is the vision; it has the vision--the world of man and beast is one world: "my father's house" is the house of us all. It is a vision before which even the sun appears momentarily to quail.
It is essential, however, not to see the sheep child only as some kind of monster-example to keep farm boys away from beasts; it is, in fact, a myth that embodies the poet's (humankind's) aspiration to union with the natural world at large. And, as Jane Bowers Martin has observed, the child is of the two worlds of nature and of art: "As a creature of memory, the sheep child, in his position with relation to the poem's narrator, transcends reality, life, in the same way that his floating existence is a transcendence of life. The sheep child is born to a world of perpetual transcendence, a world it is unnecessary to live in."
Dickey likes to say, jokingly, "I don't know what other defects or virtues this poem might have, but I think it can hardly be faulted from the standpoint of originality of viewpoint." He refers, of course, to the fact that part of the poem is told by the farm boy years later, as he recalls the proscriptive effect of the legend upon the boys' slightest sexual inclinations toward the farm animals; and to the section in which the sheep child itself, in its bottle of alcohol in the museum, speaks out. Martin, again, has made a significant observation about the split-line form of Dickey's verse, especially as it relates to the roman-type narration of the former farm boy and the italic-type narration of the sheep child:
It is the farm boy's lines that depend on these breath units, that are predominantly what Dickey calls the split line. In the sheep child's lines, however, the split line appears in only three places--the first at the description of the mating of the human and the sheep, the second at the imaginative entry of visitors to the sheep child's museum, and the third, a series of breaks, at the end of the poem, as the sheep child describes the lives the farm boys choose to lead. . . . Thus, the real world of the farm boy--where pauses for breath are necessary--is placed in juxtaposition to the transcendent world of the sheep child--where even pausing for breath is unnecessary.