Summer Dawn" is a poem that, like a painting or photograph, captures only a single moment in time. Through detailed panoramic description, it depicts a specific moment of transition. The dawn is a time of ambiguity, of uncertainty, but also of an inevitable forward motion. Morris expresses a lonely, somewhat depressed mood as he describes the lackluster appearence of a usually richly colored world. He specifies that there is only the time for "one prayer" "one thought" and "one word", and his plea that each of them be fulfilled give the impression that this is a moment of parting, perhaps a final parting

Pray but one prayer for me 'twixt thy closed lips,
     Think but one thought of me in the stars.
The summer night waneth, the morninglight slips,
     Faint and grey 'twixt the leaves of aspen, betwixt the cloud-bars,
That are patiently waiting there for the dawn:
     Patient and colourless, through Heaven's gold
Waits to float through them along with the sun
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,
     Speak but one word to me over the corn,
     Over the tender, bow'd locks of the corn.

There is a feeling of anticipation within the poem, of a tensely long moment, of waiting. Phrases such as "restless and cold / The uneasy wind rises;" and "Through the long twilight they pray for the dawn" make nature as a third entitiy within the poem, whose desires seem opposed to those of the speaker, who seems to wish the moment would last forever.

Questions

Why would Morris have established this contradiction? What does nature represent in this poem?

The poem does not assign gender, name any charactors, or explain the circumstances of the speaker. Why would Morris omit such information?

Why does Morris choose a "summer dawn" as opposed to an unspecific dawn or one in another season?

This poem implies that the relationship described will evaporate with the dawn, that it is a love that can only exist in the night. Does Morris mean that love dissolves as the figurative light illuminates the truth of a situation?

Why does the poem mention corn so many times — more in fact than anything else? What does Morris literally mean by corn?


Victorian Web Overview Visual Arts William Morris Discussion questions for William Morris

Last modified 1 April 2008