Guest Author - Jessica Smith
Poets love to write about seasons. The seasons surround us, whether living in the country or the city, whether in primeval, medieval, or modern ages. They affect our thoughts, our moods, our dreams, our plans for going outside. In short, they are a large part of our life, and therefore a constant subject for poetry.
Let’s take a look at a famous summer poem.
This poem was written by Mark Twain, famous author of the well-beloved classics Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Though Twain is famous for his humorous short stories and essays, he also wrote poetry. This particular poem deviates from his usual joking and sarcastic writing tone, and offers an interesting glimpse into a little-seen side of a complicated man.
Warm Summer Sun by Mark Twain
Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night.
Twain gives us a summer poem with gentle cadence and easy rhyme. On first glance it seems like a simple poem, perhaps for children. It bears resemblance to children’s skipping rhymes, or small nonsensical songs that are fun to sing, but aren’t often thought about. It may be a loving good night song, sung to a sleepy child.
It also could remind one of a prayer, with its repetition and mention of gentleness and nature. Shine here, it speaks to the sun, and, blow here to the wind. The tone does not command but requests, asking the forces of nature in gentle, friendly ways, to lend themselves to the place and season.
Next we must think of the subject of the poem. Who is it being written for? We see a mention of a “dear heart,” whom the speaker is wishing “good night.” Previously, we thought it might be a sleepy child or possibly a lover. Yet when we consider the words before, we see that the beloved is not napping in a summer field, but has “green sod above”. Now we feel a sense of sorrow, as we realize the beloved has died and been buried in the summer field.
While some poems rave and rage about their passionate sorrows, Twain’s poem is rather soft and gentle, like a prayer, or a final sweet good-bye. The speaker asks the sun and wind to come “kindly” and “softly”, to help the beloved in his or her final rest. “Lie light,” the speaker says, expressing hope for the beloved to be at peace in the end. Then finishes with a gentle and softly sorrowful “good night, good night.”