Summer Shower by Emily Dickinson

In ‘Summer Shower,’ which is also sometimes known as ‘A drop fell on the apple tree,’ Dickinson explores themes of nature, rebirth or revitalization, and liveliness/life. The poem emphasizes the transformative nature of rain on a dry, summer environment.  Throughout the mood is uplifting and lighthearted. 

Summer Shower by Emily Dickinson

 

Summary of Summer Shower

‘Summer Shower’ by Emily Dickinson is a joyful and image-rich poem that describes the various elements of a summer storm through figurative language

The poem takes the reader through a series of images that depict a summer storm piece by piece. The poem begins with the slow realization that it’s raining and then transitions into a description of how much joy enters into the landscape through the pearl-like droplets. The speaker’s tone is optimistic and excitable as they walk the reader through the way the brook is helped and the birds sing out in excitement. 

 

Structure of Summer Shower

‘Summer Shower’ by Emily Dickinson is a sixteen line poem that is contained within a single stanza of text. The lines do not follow a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern, but that does not mean that the poem is completely without rhyme or rhythm. There are several examples of half-rhyme and full-rhyme within the sixteen lines of ‘Summer Shower’. The latter, full rhyme, is the kind of rhyme that is most commonly associated with poetry. For example, “tree” and “sea” at the ends of lines one and six or “sung” and “hung” at the ends of lines ten and twelve. 

Half-rhyme, also known as slant or partial rhyme, is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line, or multiple lines of verse. For example, “glee” and “East” and “dejected” and “fete”. 

 

Poetic Techniques in Summer Shower

Dickinson makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Summer Shower’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, anaphora, and personification. The first of these, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “hat” and ”hung” in lines eleven and twelve as well as “breezes brought” and “bathed” in lines thirteen and fourteen. 

Dickinson also makes use of anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. This technique is often used to create emphasis. A list of phrases, items, or actions may be created through its implementation. There are multiple examples in ‘Summer Shower’. For instance, “A” starting lines one, three, and five as well as “The” starting lines nine through thirteen and fifteen. 

Personification occurs when a poet imbues a non-human creature or object with human characteristics. In the case of this particular poem, Dickinson uses the technique to give the summer shower agency as is seen throughout the sixteen lines of the poem. The showers “help” the brook and the sea. While the breezes “brought dejected lutes, / And bathed them in the glee”. 

 

Analysis of Summer Shower 

Lines 1-6 

A drop fell on the apple tree,

Another on the roof;

A half a dozen kissed the eaves,

And made the gables laugh.

A few went out to help the brook,

That went to help the sea.

In the first lines of ‘Summer Shower,’ the speaker begins by slowly describing the falling of raindrops upon a summer scene. It’s not entirely clear in the first few lines what is being described until more details are added. Dickinson was attempting in these first lines to allude to the very human experiences of slowly realizing that it’s starting to rain. But, rather than focus on the human experience in these lines, she focuses on what the rain does for the various landscapes it touches. 

She speaks about how the drops fall. They are personified in different ways, making the “gables” of the houses “laugh” and kissing the “eaves” of those same houses. She also describes how the water “help[s] the brook” and then the sea. This alludes to the filling of these bodies of water. As well as how with more water and more force they travel faster and more forcefully. 

 

Lines 7-12 

Myself conjectured, Were they pearls,

What necklaces could be!

The dust replaced in hoisted roads,

The birds jocoser sung;

The sunshine threw his hat away,

The orchards spangles hung.

In the next lines of ‘Summer Shower,’ a reader can find a great example of anaphora with the repetition of “The” at the beginning of multiple lines. This technique works with the content in order to create another technique, accumulation. In this case, the various descriptions of what the rain looks like and what it “could be” come together to form a larger picture of the force. 

The poet uses a metaphor to depict the rain as “pearls”. They are precious and she expresses wonder and awe over what “necklaces” could be made out of these drops. The dust is pushed away from the “hoisted roads” and the birds sing with joy at the change in the weather. Dickinson uses a coined word in this section, “jocoser” which refers to the merry way that the birds express their appreciation for the rain. 

There are more examples of personification as the “sunshine threw his hat away”. The light touches the orchards on the ground, making them shine. 

 

Lines 13-16

The breezes brought dejected lutes,

And bathed them in the glee;

The East put out a single flag,

And signed the fete away.

The poem is no longer focused slowly around the rain. Dickinson is also exploring the other elements of the day including the sun and the breezes. The last lines are slightly more complex than the previous ones. In this section, the poet discusses the rest of the landscape. For example, how the rain and accompanying elements are impacting it. These lines also allude to what comes after the storm. This is when everything has passed by and the world is improved in one way or another. 

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  • Avatar Peter O'Brien says:

    As always with Dickenson, this poem is rich with colourful & unusual imagery. The last stanza is mysterious with its reference to breezes that bring ‘dejected lutes’ & the East that puts out a single flag & signs the fete away’ – referring perhaps to the sunshine after rain that evaporates the ‘pearls’ of water with its warmth.

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      Absolutely. I love how Dickinson’s mind worked. Amazing poet.

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