‘Summer Morn in New Hampshire’ by Claude McKay is a sixteen line poem which is contains a rhyme scheme of ababcdcdefefghgh. It can be separated into two octaves, or sets of eight lines, for a constructive and in-depth analysis.
The first section of the poem describes the dark setting in which the speaker is residing. It is not morning yet, and the clouds, mist, and general dark tone are in total control of the world. In the second half of the poem there is a “turn,” and the sun rises. Its warmth changes everything. These two sections are each made up of one octave.
The poem begins with the speaker stating that the current setting in which he lives is dark, misty, and filled with pouring rain. There has been no reprieve from the onslaught for two days and the rain is beginning to drive the speaker mad. The sound is deafening on the roof of his house.
In the second half of the poem, the sun rises on a new day and everything is transformed. There is a new warmth in the world, the wind blows lightly, and the birds sing in the trees. Although this is a welcome change, the brilliance of the moment does not touch the speaker. He states that the only thing which can move him is the love of another who is “far away.” Until this person returns he will remain downtrodden.
Analysis of Summer Morn in New Hampshire
All yesterday it poured, and all night long
I could not sleep; the rain unceasing beat
Upon the shingled roof like a weird song,
Upon the grass like running children’s feet.
Before beginning this piece the reader is able to assume a number of things about what is going to be described within the text. First, it will be a morning, that morning will be happening in the summer, in the state of New Hampshire in the North Eastern United States. One might assume that the poem will describe a bright, warm day in the midst of the summer heat, but that is not so. The poet purposeful starts the poem in a surprising manner, with a “hook,” in an effort to draw readers in.
In the first lines of ‘Summer Morn in New Hampshire’, the speaker begins by embellishing on the setting and describing the general feeling of the place at the center of the poem. He paints a picture of a gloomy, wet, and quiet town that is besieged by pouring rain. Within this town in New Hampshire, it has been raining for more than a day. It rained “All yesterday” and “all night long.”It was so intense that the narrator, speaking in the first person, was unable to sleep.
It was pouring so hard that the sound of the rain hitting the “shingled roof” was deafening. It sounded to the speaker like a “weird song” or like the sound of a “children’s feet” running on grass. The rain has a musical element to it. It is beautiful, overwhelming, and inescapable.
And down the mountains by the dark cloud kissed,
Like a strange shape in filmy veiling dressed,
Slid slowly, silently, the wraith-like mist,
And nestled soft against the earth’s wet breast.
In the next set of lines, the speaker continues on to describe the moving mist which is making its way across the landscape.
He begins by letting the reader know that there are mountains nearby. They are not described in any greater detail than with the simple statement that they are there. This section is written so that the reader remains unaware of what is being described until they get to the end of the third line.
One knows that something is moving around the mountains. It is dark, cloud-like, and of a “strange shape.” This unknown body is covered, or made up of a “filmy veil.” It appears to be “dressed” in it.
The shape, which is soon revealed to be mist, is moving “slowly” and “silently.” The mist has a certain amount of dread around it. There is something dark and fearful about its presence and the way it covers everything in its path. This is only enhanced by the description of it being “wraith” or ghost-like.
It has made itself at home against the earth. It is “nestled” into the “earth’s wet breast.”
But lo, there was a miracle at dawn!
The still air stirred at touch of the faint breeze,
The sun a sheet of gold bequeathed the lawn,
The songsters twittered in the rustling trees.
In the second half of ‘Summer Morn in New Hampshire’, there is a turn in the narrative. The dark and foreboding tone that the poet’s speaker had been using up until this point vanishes as the poem moves into its next eight lines. Everything changes in these lines as they represent the rising of the sun and the true coming of the “Morn.”
The clouds and mist which once haunted the landscape are driven off and the “air” is “stirred” by a breeze blowing. It appears to the speaker to be a kind of “miracle.” He did not believe that the darkness of the night could ever be driven off, and now it has been vanquished completely.
There is a “faint breeze” in the air and the sun is shining its “gold” on the “lawn.” Everything is being re-endowed with warmth, life, and strength. The speaker describes this process simply. The sun, and all that comes with its presence in the sky, lightly touches the earth and everything is transformed. It is the “rustling” and a simple “touch” which changes everything.
Additionally, the speaker says that now he is able to hear the “songsters,” or birds, “twitter[ing]” amongst the leaves of the trees.
And all things were transfigured in the day,
But me whom radiant beauty could not move;
For you, more wonderful, were far away,
And I was blind with hunger for your love.
In the final four lines the reason for the telling of this story, and the conception of ‘Summer Morn in New Hampshire’, is revealed. All of this was described, from the darkness to the light and all of its miracles, to show one listener, the one whom the speaker loves, that he is “blind with hunger” for this person. There is nothing in the world that can compare to the way that he feels.
The speaker states that although “all things were transfigured” by the coming of the day, he was unmoved. The “radiant beauty” of the world could not touch this speaker’s heart. His emotions are reserved for something else, the love of another.
He knows the only thing which could truly move him is the reciprocated love of the “you” to whom the speaker directs, ‘Summer Morn in New Hampshire.’ This person is said to be “far away.” Until they return to the speaker’s sight, there is nothing that can change the way he feels.