Category Archives: Guido Reni

A something in a summer’s Day

L'Aurora, 1614, Guido Reni
Background Image: L’Aurora, 1614, Guido Reni

Beautiful poem! Emily continues her observations of the cycles of the day from sunset (‘If this is “fading”‘) and sunrise (“As Watchers hang upon the East“) to this poem which deals with the entire procession of the day – she even references Helios’ chariot. And all through the poem she plays with an ‘s’ alliteration as if it could be a summer’s breeze blowing through the whole poem, or even perhaps the sound of cicadas.

Twice in this poem she uses the female pronoun “her” not only to refer to the sun and the sun rising, “her flambeaux” and “her amber Flag”, but she is also referring to herself, Emily, the poet watching and writing. This continual act of creation of the day and the night and the new day again mirrors her own act of creation through her poetry in which not only does she observe the day, she creates the day in her own words. Emily is, in fact, playing the role of Helios as she guides the sun across the sky of the poem, a continual act of creation that illuminates the beauty of the world through the written word, specifically through her use of ‘s’ alliteration which not only could be a gentle breeze or cicadas, but the sun itself. In the stanzas where the sun is up (and the moon is bright) she leans heavily on this alliteration, but when the sun and moon are not visible, the alliteration is very slight until the final two lines of the poem which reintroduces the pattern with “dews” and “summer’s”.

In fact, the “something” she keeps referring to “in a summer’s” day or noon or night is this mysterious ‘s’ which combines perhaps sound (a breeze, a cicada) with the visual element of the light. Emily’s synesthesia could be what she is investigating and which she can only refer to as a “something”, and it’s a “something” she can only express in poetry. This is why I believe she is not only writing about the cycles of the day, but also about the very act of creation itself.

Formally, the poem can be read in a loop – the final line reveals a new “summer’s Day” and the first stanza explores the morning before “noon” (she explores “noon” in stanza two, therefore stanza one is likely the morning). Her rhyme scheme is unusual in that at first I transcribed it as AAB CCD EEF GGH IIJ KLML, but when I went back I think it’s actually AAB CCB DDB EEB FFG HHI JKLK because this would connect the first four stanzas in which there is a light visible (the sun and then the moon) which then leads into the dark of the night (stanzas five and six who have their own pattern) and finally stanza 7 which is unique just like every sunrise is unique. This JKLK rhyme seems to mimic a new day being forged as the sun who is the same everyday and is “gay” every “Day” (the K rhyme) creates a unique “summer’s day” each “morn” “coming thro’ the dews” (the J and L). Thus stanza six and seven stream into each other with a HIJKL before we get another repeat of K: “Crag”, “Red”, “morn”, “gay”, and “dews” before we get a repeat of “Day” (which is a not only “Another” day, but also a new day, too.

And Emily refers to the procession of one day into the next not only with her allusion to Helios who “Guides” “His caravan of Red” across the sky, but also with her use of “solemnizes” which means to observe something with “some amount of ceremony” (OED). Emily not only is observing what is going on around her but she is also creating the procession of one day into the next as the poem progresses across the page (and through the sky). She is both observer and creator, hence her use of the pronoun “her” in the poem.

Finally, she refers to “The wizard fingers” which is not only perhaps God’s “fingers” (be it the Christian God or another ancient Greek deity, such as Helios or Apollo or a reference to Book 24 of the Iliad and Homer’s use of Eos’ rosy fingered dawn) but she is describing her own “fingers” that “never rest” as she writes every day. Her acts of creation mimic the act of daily creation, and her poetry is like a summer’s day when the flowers bloom and life and energy and light is abundant. Yet she also concedes that even her poetry cannot fully capture the glory of a summer’s day when she describes how the “purple brook” – which is not only an image of a brook in the predawn darkness but also an image of blood flowing through the body and an allusion to the ink flowing from her pen – cannot truly be contained in its “bed” because its beauty is so great that nothing can capture it. In fact this is something Rilke would write about in his poetry years later when he would describe how the love inside us is larger than the size of our heart and our body – in other words, we carry around something in us that is larger than us and so it “chafes its narrow bed” (with “bed” also being a reference to sleep and dreams).