Category Archives: Caillebotte, Gustave

Summer for thee, grant I may be

Canoe on the Yerres River, 1878, Gustave Caillebotte
Background Image: Canoe on the Yerres River, 1878, Gustave Caillebotte

Emily enforces the desire for her to be someone’s “Summer” through the repetition of the rhyme in the middle of a line. For example, in the first line “thee” and “be” form the first rhyme, and in the third and fourth lines “still”, “Whipporwill”, and “Oriole” share a rhyme which creates the effect of bird song on a summer’s day. In fact, this poem might not even be about Emily wanting to be someone else’s “Summer” but that she is writing from the point of view of summer and that “Summer” here is apostrophized through the birds and their songs which are heard all through the poem as a repeated rhyme. Thus summer herself has “flown” in when the “music” of the birds has gone “still” meaning that Emily may be recalling summer during the depths of winter when the “Whipporwill” and “Oriole” have “flown” away.

The second stanza has an element of the fantastic in it with her imagery of summer skipping over “the tomb” and then in the next line summer is in a boat as it rows its “blossoms o’er” to her. These lines might be her memory of rowing on a lazy river without a worry in the world of death or winter. Yet the truly fantastical imagery comes into focus when we combine the image of summer flying in the first stanza with it rowing in the second as if she is combining the images of water and sky into one image, sort of like how the horizon blends into the sky when you look out at the sea, especially on a hazy and hot summer’s day.