Throughout ‘To an Early Daffodil,’ Lowell uses clear and evocative images to depict the daffodil and how it came into being. The poem uses a lot of personification to help these descriptions along. The sun nurses the flower into being, and the flower itself stands strong against the elements.
Explore To an Early Daffodil
In the first lines of the poem, the speaker describes the transition from spring to summer through the sun’s increased heat. This comes down to the earth and the soil and makes the daffodil bloom. This is encouraged further by some rainstorms. When the daffodil does bloom, it is gold like the sun and standing erect through the season. There’s nothing that can diminish its beauty.
In ‘To an Early Daffodil,’ the poet engages with themes of nature and transformation. This poem follows a specific flower from the early days of summer to its height. The flower blooms and grows, becoming a perfect representative of the earth’s most beautiful species. Additionally, the daffodil comes to represent the power of the sun and the other elements of nature to come together and create something perfect. The natural world functions in an ideal and picturesque manner in ’To an Early Daffodil.’
Structure and Form
‘To an Early Daffodil’ by Amy Lowell is a fourteen-line sonnet that is contained within one single stanza of text, as is traditional. The lines follow the rhyme scheme of a Petrarchan sonnet. This means that the first octave, which can be separated into two quatrains, rhymes ABBAABBA, and the sestet rhymes CDCDCD. This is the most common of the rhyme scheme used in the sestet and gives the poem a very steady conclusion.
Readers should also note the use of iambic pentameter throughout ‘To an Early Daffodil.’ While it is not totally consistent throughout, the majority of the lines contain five sets of two beats, the first of which is unstressed and the second of which is stressed. This is the most common metrical pattern in the English language and the one that’s used in Shakespearean and Petrarchan sonnets.
Lowell makes use of several literary devices in ‘To an Early Daffodil.’ These include but are not limited to enjambment, caesura, and imagery. The latter is one of the most important literary devices that a poet can uses. It appears when the poet writes especially poignant images and descriptions. For example, in the first lines of the poem when the speaker describes the “myriad flowers” of summer and the “yellow trumpeter of laggard Spring.”
Enjambment is a formal device. One that occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines three and four, as well as lines twelve and thirteen.
Caesurae are pauses in the beginning, middle, or end of lines that are created through the use of punctuation or a natural pause in the middle of a metrical line. For example, line twelve reads: “To-morrow jewelled with raindrops. Always bold.”
Thou yellow trumpeter of laggard Spring!
Thou herald of rich Summer’s myriad flowers!
The climbing sun with new recovered powers
Does warm thee into being, through the ring
In the first lines of ‘To an Early Daffodil,’ the speaker begins by exclaiming over the natural sights that tell her that spring is turning into summer. The brighter and warmer sun brings in “Summer’s myriad flowers.” The sun creates these flowers through its warmth that’s newly recovered from the previous season. In the following lines, the poet depicts the son as a man wooing a woman.
Of rich, brown earth he woos thee, makes thee fling
Thy green shoots up, inheriting the dowers
Of bending sky and sudden, sweeping showers,
Till ripe and blossoming thou art a thing
The sun “woos” the flowers in the earth and makes the “green shoots” rise up out of the ground. It is assisted by the “bending sky and sudden, sweeping showers.” The sun and the rainstorms are working together to create the ideal environment for these new plants to grow, especially the daffodil mentioned in the title. This occurs until the flower is “ripe and blossoming.”
The speaker continues to talk directly to the daffodil, using a device known as apostrophe. This occurs when the poet’s speaker talks to something or someone that does not or cannot understand them.
To make all nature glad, thou art so gay;
To fill the lonely with a joy untold;
Nodding at every gust of wind to-day,
To-morrow jewelled with raindrops. Always bold
To stand erect, full in the dazzling play
Of April’s sun, for thou hast caught his gold.
The final lines of the sonnet continue as the octave did. The speaker addresses the daffodil and describes the important role it has to play in the landscape. It makes “nature glad” brings “untold” joy to everyone who feels lonely. No matter what weather comes over the next months, the daffodil is going to stand strong. It might be covered in rain or swaying in the breeze but it will “stand erect” and as dazzling as always. This is due to the fact, the speaker concludes, that the flower has caught the sun’s “gold.”
Readers who enjoyed ‘To an Early Daffodil’ should also consider reading some of Amy Lowell’s other poems. For example:
- ‘The Garden by Moonlight’ – describes a garden under the light of the moon and the various types of life one can spot around it.
- ‘A Lady’ – analyzes an old woman and her worth. She’s beautiful and faded and the speaker decides to dedicate her “vigor” to her.
- ‘Petals’ – uses flower petals as a metaphor for how human beings live their lives and share their heart.