In "Summer Dawn" William Morris presents the reader with a moment of transition. The title suggests this emphasis on being in between two moments, as does the way the light seems to always move between two aspects of the landscape: "the morninglight slips,/ Faint and grey 'twixt the leaves of aspen, betwixt the cloud-bars" (lines 3-4). The rest of landscape Morris creates in the poem further conveys the speaker's anticipation of the day and the uncomfortable feeling of waiting for something else. Each entity in the landscape absorbs the speaker's expectancy; Morris describes the aspen and the elms as waiting and the wind as "uneasy:"
Far out in the meadows, above the young corn,
The heavy elms wait, and restless and cold
The uneasy wind rises; the roses are dun;
Through the long twilight they pray for the dawn. [lines 8-11]
Here, the elms even pray, just as the speaker does, for the next day. Morris rounds out his poem with an indication of the reason for the speaker's anticipation in the first two lines, "Pray but one prayer for me 'twixt thy closed lips,/ Think but one thought of me in the stars" (lines 1-2) and the last two, "Speak but one word to me over the corn,/Over the tender, bow'd locks of the corn" (lines 13-14). Morris hints, on the edges of the poem, at the beloved who makes the speaker's next day so precious.
1. Morris describes the morning light as "colourless" and the roses as "dun." What effect does this emphasis on colorlessness produce in the poem?
2. This poem also features a great deal of repetition for its length, particularly in the use of "waiting" or "waits" and the image of corn in the last few lines. How does the repetition affect the poem, particularly its structure and sense of movement?
3. Many of Morris's poems have medieval subjects, pointing to his distaste for Victorian culture (Cody, "Morris's Mediaevalism"). Does this poem demonstrate any similar tendencies, or any statements about the Victorian era?
Last modified 7 November 2004