Summer ends now

Hurrahing in Harvest

SUMMER ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?
I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
And, éyes, heárt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?
And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
Majestic – as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet! –
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet

Gerard Manley Hopkins drafted this, typically complex and prematurely modern, sonnet on September 1st 1877 in the Vale of Clwyd, as he walked home from a day’s fishing in the River Elwy.  It seems a harvest festival sort of poem.


Edward Thomas wrote this before the start of the First World War.  Ivor Gurney’s view was that it said all that needed to be said about the English language.

Out of us all that make rhymes,

Will you choose sometimes –

As the winds use a crack in a wall or a drain,

Their joy or their pain to whistle through –

Choose me, you English words?


I know you: you are light as dreams,

Tough as oak, precious as gold, as poppies and corn

Or as an old cloak: sweet as our birds to the ear,

As the burnet rose in the heat of Midsummer:

Strange as the races of dead and unborn:

Strange and sweet equally, and familiar, to the eye,

As the dearest faces that a man knows,

And as lost homes are: but though older far

Than oldest yew – as our hills are, old –

Worn new again and again, young as our streams after rain:

And as dear as the earth which you prove that we love.


Make me content with some sweetness

From Wales whose nightingales have no wings –

From Wiltshire and Kent and Herefordshire,

And the villages there – from the names, and the things

No less. Let me sometimes dance with you,

Or climb or stand perchance in ecstacy,

Fixed and free in a rhyme, as poets do.

An August Midnight

Another Thomas Hardy poem, but quite different from the last one. I suspect that few of us welcome insects into our homes.   We might just be more tolerant of bumblebees (Hardy’s dumbledore) as we tend to view these more positively than we do flies, although we know they are better off outside.

A shaded lamp and a waving blind,

And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:

On this scene enter – winged, horned, and spined –

A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;

While ‘mid my page there idly stands

A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands …


Thus meet we five, in this still place,

At this point of time, at this point in space.

My guests parade my new-penned ink,

Or bang at the lamp-glass, whirl, and sink.

“God’s humblest, they!” I muse. Yet why?

They know Earth-secrets that know not I.

In Time of The Breaking of Nations

Thomas Hardy’s picture of everyday country life, far away from battlefields, could have been drawn from life round here a hundred years ago. Though a man harrowing with a horse seems so distant now, other things endure.

Only a man harrowing clods

In a slow silent walk

With an old horse that stumbles and nods

Half asleep as they stalk.


Only thin smoke without flame

From the heaps of couch-grass;

Yet this will go onward the same

Though Dynasties pass.


Yonder a maid and her wight

Come whispering by:

War’s annals will cloud into night

Ere their story die.

Sleep on child it is not quite day

There is something very iconic about the lark, and hearing its extravagant song in open grasslands is one of summer’s great pleasures.  No wonder the bird has inspired such great music and poetry.  This is Bill Caddick’s lullaby, Waiting for the Lark 

Sleep on child it is not quite day, for the moon has still to set.
Oh the lark she will cry and bring down the morning to where you lie,
But the lark has not risen yet.

Sleep on child while the birds rest on, the cow she sleeps in her stall.
Oh the meadow stands grey in this dew-down moment before the day,
And waits for the lark to call.

Sleep on child while the fields are still, they wait for your father’s hand.
But he will not go, and the sun will not shine, and the cock will not crow,
Till the lark cries over the land.

Sleep on child and heed no sound, for your father may rise in the dark,
With his boots in his hand go drowsily down by the doorway to stand,
Waiting for the lark.

Shakespeare’s 33rd sonnet

Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine
With all-triumphant splendor on my brow;
But out, alack! he was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now.
Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.

This is Shakespeare’s 33rd sonnet and looks to be a comment on the changeability of the English weather – the first 8 lines seem to be exactly about those days that begin brilliantly and then become progressively dull as the sun is hidden by cloud.  Today is one of those days!  Yet the next lines suggest it’s really about something much more human: love and estrangement; the need for understanding, and forgiveness.


THE mid-day hour of twelve the clock counts o’er
A sultry stillness lulls the air asleep
The very buzz of flies is heard no more
Nor faintest wrinkles o’er the waters creep
Like one large sheet of glass the waters shine
Reflecting on their face the burnt sunbeam
The very fish their sporting play decline
Seeking the willow-shadows ’side the stream
And, where the hawthorn branches o’er the pool
The little bird, forsaking song and nest
Flutters on dripping twigs his limbs to cool
And splashes in the stream his burning breast
O, free from thunder, for a sudden shower
To cherish nature in this noon-day hour!

The young John Clare’s Noon details no human presence, but it’s easy to image him, sitting, pen in hand by a pool, just letting his thoughts flow – even though the water does not.  This is a hot summer day poem: far too warm to be bothered with punctuation.  How a summer day ought to be: sitting quietly, just a part of nature.