The Sunrise runs for Both

River Scene, 1840, Sebastian Pether
Background Image: River Scene, 1840, Sebastian Pether

Stunningly beautiful poem, especially because she is able to capture the expanse between horizons as if she holds her arms up and outstretched to the glory of the heavens in celebration of all this beauty. And there is an intimacy here in that we share this moment of a day alone, there is nobody to bother us, only us and the rotation of the earth through the sky.

To say this poem is breathless would technically be inaccurate since she involves the breath of the sky in the opening stanza, though she hides it in the word “unwinds” (wind) and “Breadth” (breath). In fact the opening stanza mimics breathing in that the poem opens with the verb “runs” and closes with “still”, as if the sky is breathing and each day is one cycle of inhaling and exhaling. Yet to say the poem is breathless would also be accurate in that what she is describing has left her breathless at the beauty of the “Noon” who “unwinds Her Blue” across the sky like a ribbon being untied on a gift.

But what does she mean by using the word “Both”? In fact the poem is filled with images of a set of 2: “Both” (three times, once each stanza), “Two”, “set”, and “One – / And One” (as in 1 + 1). Who are these two? I’ve read that it could be a poem about two lovers, which seems plausible, especially since there is a strong current of an almost aching love in this poem as we observe the beauty of the sky. But if we take the poem for what it is: a description of the sky throughout the day and night, it feels as if she is somehow connected to the majesty of the heavens, that she is in love with the whole universe and that the “Both” is her and the heavens. We could image her standing on a hill watching the sunrise, then as the day “unwinds” until evening when the “Lamp” of the moon comes out until she too sets and the “Dusky Arms” of the Milky Way appear and we end with an embrace (as lovers would at night) and the lie together (either to sleep or to make love).