We have reached the summer solstice, when we enjoy more sunlight than on any other day. Bees are buzzing, wildflowers are swaying in the breeze, cotton-candy clouds are drifting across the bluest of skies – ah, summer! This is my favourite season, a time to slow down and enjoy the moment, to bask in the warm glow of the sun, to sit out in the garden and daydream – and perhaps those daydreams will infuse my next novel.
The summer has long proved inspirational for writers, who try to capture the essence of the season in words. Today, I am sharing some of my favourite poems that beautifully encapsulate the experience of this season.
‘I Love to See the Summer Beaming Forth’
Poet John Clare (1793–1864) was the son of a farm labourer whose poetry celebrated the English countryside. For me, this poem conveys that happy feeling you have when you realise spring is giving way to summer.
I love to see the summer beaming forth
And white wool sack clouds sailing to the north
I love to see the wild flowers come again
And mare blobs stain with gold the meadow drain
And water lilies whiten on the floods
Where reed clumps rustle like a wind shook wood
Where from her hiding place the Moor Hen pushes
And seeks her flag nest floating in bull rushes
I like the willow leaning half way o’er
The clear deep lake to stand upon its shore
I love the hay grass when the flower head swings
To summer winds and insects happy wings
That sport about the meadow the bright day
And see bright beetles in the clear lake play
‘To See the Summer Sky’
Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) had a way of saying so much with so few words. Here, she perfectly sums up the summer sky:
To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie –
True Poems flee –
In ‘June’, American poet John Updike (1932–2009) takes us back to what summer meant in childhood. Wouldn’t we all love to go back and enjoy that freedom once again?
The sun is rich
And gladly pays
In golden hours,
And long green weeks
That never end.
The time Is ours to spend.
There’s Little League,
Hopscotch, the creek,
And, after supper,
The live-long light
Is like a dream,
and freckles come
Like flies to cream.
‘Bed in Summer’
This poem by Scottish poet Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894) also reminds me of childhood, although of course even as an adult it can feel quite strange to be retiring to bed when the sky is still bright.
In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.
I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.
And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?
‘Moonlight, Summer Moonlight’
Once the sun has set, the summer night has a feel all of its own. Here, Emily Brontë (1818–1848) conjures up an evocative picture of the ‘solemn hour of midnight’.
’Tis moonlight, summer moonlight,
All soft and still and fair;
The solemn hour of midnight
Breathes sweet thoughts everywhere,
But most where trees are sending
Their breezy boughs on high,
Or stooping low are lending
A shelter from the sky.
And there in those wild bowers
A lovely form is laid;
Green grass and dew-steeped flowers
Wave gently round her head.
‘A Summer’s Night’
The summer’s night can be sweet – and it can be sultry. Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906) was the son of freed slaves in Kentucky, USA. His poem ‘A Summer’s Night’ is wonderfully sensual.
The night is dewy as a maiden’s mouth,
The skies are bright as are a maiden’s eyes,
Soft as a maiden’s breath the wind that flies
Up from the perfumed bosom of the South.
Like sentinels, the pines stand in the park;
And hither hastening, like rakes that roam,
With lamps to light their wayward footsteps home,
The fireflies come stagg’ring down the dark.