The poem is filled with beautiful images of light, dark, heat, and shadow. It follows the speaker’s life from the morning through the evening and the various daily occurrences that controlled their life due to the intense heat of summer in South Africa. ‘Weather Eye’ also mourns the end of one’s need to keep an eye on the weather.
Explore Weather Eye
‘Weather Eye’ by Isobel Dixon is a poem filled with nostalgia for the past and a time during which family routines were strong.
In the first lines of ‘Weather Eye,’ the speaker begins by describing how summer mornings in their youth drove them outside to the shade of a guava tree. There, they could get away from the oppressive indoor heat for a time. Their mother would close the blinds and ensure that the home cooled down and became cave-like. As the lines progress, it becomes clear that although this time in their life was difficult, they miss it. They express a desire to return to it in the final lines.
You can read the full poem here.
In summer when the Christmas beetles
to find the mulberry’s sweet shade
or watch ants marching underneath the guava tree.
In the first lines of ‘Weather Eye,’ the speaker begins by noting that in summer, there’s a very specific sound in the air, that of Christmas beetles. They make a “thin brass shilling” that could wake you up in the heat of the day and drive you outside into the sun and to the relative coolness of the “guava tree.” These are wonderful opening examples of imagery that help set the tone and create an atmosphere for the rest of the poem.
And in the house Mommy would start
the daily ritual, whipping curtains closed,
the house would be a cool, dark cave,
As the lines progress, the speaker adds in more details. They note that inside, “your” mother would start her daily routine of closing the curtains and shutters against the sun. Finally, too hot and thirsty, “you” would come back inside. At that point, the heat banished, the house would be a “cool, dark cave.” This last line is a great example of a metaphor. The house isn’t really a cave, but by describing it as one, the reader is better able to imagine what it was like inside.
an enclave barricaded against light
and carpeted with shadow, still
in tandem with the steamy day.
In the next stanza, the speaker says that the house was like an “enclave barricaded against light.” Shadow was the only thing welcome during those summer months in the home. But, it was not without its warmth. There was the “pressure cooked” chugging away all day. It aligned itself, the speaker felt, with “the steamy day.” By this point, readers should have a good image in their mind of what the days were like for this speaker or the “you” they’re directing their words to.
And in the evenings when the sun had settled
and crickets started silvering the night,
on the front verandah, of the scientific facts.
Now, the speaker transitions into describing the evenings after the sun has “settled” and the crickets fill the air with their sound. This is in direct contrast to the sound of the beetles in the morning and the rising of the sun.
The speaker gets home from school, and now, with the father in the picture, the evening routine begins.
Then if the temperature had dropped enough
the stays were loosened and the house undressed
someone else’s supper, and a neighbour’s voice –
They’d open the doors to a breeze, if there is one, and various sights and sounds would play themselves out. This included the “season’s scents, the jasmine,” and “someone else’s supper.” Despite the natural images that fill this poem, the home is close enough to others to be able to catch a whiff of their lives and a sound of their voices.
out walking labradors, the only time of day
for it, this time of year. How well the world
was ordered then. These chill machines
to where you watch the skies and keep things right.
In the final stanza, which is one of the longest in the poem, the speaker says that the “neighbour’s” voices could be heard when they were out “walking labradors” during the dark evening. This was the only time of year that this was possible.
Looking back on the past, the speaker understands that the world was better-ordered and easier to understand at that time. Now there are “chill machines” that change the rules of when one thing can happen during a particular season. The regulation “of burning days” changed.
The final line is moving and is the first time that the speaker refers to themselves with a first-person pronoun, “me.” They ask that they be allowed to return to this time in their life when “you,” the person to whom they’ve been directing their words, watched the sky and kept “things right.” This refers to the simple procedures of opening and closing the blinds but also the rightness and simplicity of the speaker’s childhood.
Structure and Form
‘Weather Eye’ by Isobel Dixon is a six-stanza poem that is divided into sets of five, six, or seven lines. These lines are written in free verse. This means that the poem does not conform to a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. But, it doesn’t mean that the poem is entirely without structure. For example, the use of half-rhymes. These occur when the poet allows words with similar sounds, although not identical sounds, to land close together. For example, “day” and “wake” in stanza one. Both of these words use the same long “a” vowel sound.
Throughout this piece, the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one, two, and three of stanza three.
- Alliteration: can be seen when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of words. For example, “beetles” and “brass” in lines one and two as well as “cool” and “cave” in stanza two.
- Imagery: occurs when the poet uses especially interesting and effective descriptions. For example, “filled each day with thin brass shrilling, / heat would wake you, lapping at the sheet.”
- Metaphor: can be seen when the poet makes a comparison between two things without using “like” or “as.” For example, “the house would be a cool, dark cave.”
The tone is nostalgic and wistful. The speaker spends the lines celebrating what their life used to be like, the ups and the downs, and the ways the family had to compromise when the weather was too poor to do what they needed to do at one time.
The themes at work in this piece include family and the past. The speaker is expressing, in clear and loving terms, what their life used to be life. At the end of the poem, it becomes clear that a lot of changes have occurred since then.
The purpose is to describe, with nostalgia, the way life worked when the speaker was young. The heat of summer was all-consuming and directed their family’s daily actions. These routines are something the speaker connects to a happier time and something they wish they could return to.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Weather Eye’ should also consider reading some other Isobel Dixon poems. For example:
- ‘Plenty’ – describes the relationships a speaker had while she was a child and how she interprets them now that she is an adult.
Some other related poems include:
- ‘Childhood’ by Markus Natten – a poem about the poet’s childhood. The poet talks about the transition of the poet from his childhood to maturity.
- ‘Discord in Childhood’ by D.H. Lawrence – a short poem that compares domestic conflict and abuse to a storm outside the house.