In "Summer Dawn," William Morris describes his narrator's vantage of a very still moment before the dawn, when "The summer night waneth, the morninglight slips." Though the verbs "waneth" and "slips" indicate a progressing transition, as indeed the sunrise is, the following lines emphasize its static feel to one who watches it:
Faint and grey 'twixt the leaves of aspen, betwixt the cloud-bars,
That are patiently waiting there for the dawn:
Patient and colourless, though Heaven's gold
Waits to float through them along with the sun.
The faintly-lit clouds and the golden color both wait for the coming of the dawn, when they will unite. The narrator now turns to his vantage of the east:
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,
Round the lone house in the midst of the corn.
With these five lines, we see the order of the landscape: a house, surrounded by roses, sits far away amidst a field of corn towered by elm trees. Like the heavenly landscape above, the earthly landscape waits too--however, this waiting game is less patient than the one in the sky. A "restless" and "uneasy" wind sweeps through the young corn and heavy elms, and the dimmed roses show their discontentment by praying for the dawn to give them light.
What differences does Morris point out between how the temporal, earthly landscape and how the eternal, heavenly landscape each experience the dawn? How does the narrator who watches, thinks, and asks, fit in?
Morris begins and ends the poem with the narrator addressing the summer dawn, each in two lines:
Pray but one prayer for me 'twixt thy closed lips,
Think but one thought of me in the stars.
[...] Speak but one word to me over the corn,
Over the tender, bow'd locks of the corn.
How does this format work into the meaning of the poem? What does addressing the summer dawn in this way say about the narrator?
The narrator asks the dawn for but one prayer, but one thought, and but one word. They are similes of the sunlight he waits for. What do they mean?
Swinburne's "Evening on the Broads" discusses the setting sun in terms of the division between night and day. How do their musings on the sun's cycles compare? What does this say about differences in their poetry?How does Morris' loyalty to Mediaevalism pervade in this poem?
Last modified 1 April 2008