‘Morning on the Sinnecock’ by Olivia Ward Bush-Bank is a six stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, or quatrains. Each of these sets of lines follows a consistent rhyming pattern of abcb, alternating as the poem progresses from the first to last stanza.
A reader should also take note of the use of indention in every other line. The second and fourth lines of each stanza are indented in, providing an additional element of variety to the piece. A reader will be forced to move their eyes in and out, from one line to the next.
In the first lines, the speaker begins by describing how the rising sun “crowned the hills” of the plains and displayed for the speaker, a “wondrous spectacle.” She was there to observe it amongst the leaves. This is later related to the beginning of her life. She was as beautiful and unbothered as the sunrise.
As the poem progresses the scene only becomes lovelier. The warmth and light spreads across the field and the birds sing out, “heralding” the coming of morning.
In the last lines, the speaker reminds her readers that the morning cannot last. Nothing this beautiful is without end. She also relates the coming of “sorrow’s day” to the process of aging. The speaker is no longer the untroubled youth she was at the dawn of her life.
Analysis of Morning on the Sinnecock
The rising sun had crowned the hills,
And added beauty to the plain;
O grand and wondrous spectacle!
That only nature could explain.
In the first stanza, the speaker begins by describing the most basic elements of the setting. The natural sights, sounds, and feelings which are contained within the poem are the most important parts of the narrative. Another aspect to note is that Bush-Bank chose the beginning of the poem to come at the beginning of the day. The sun is rising and the first lines are starting.
The ‘rising sun” has “crowned the hills.” This sight and the addition of the warmth and light to the scene increase the beauty of the “plain” over which all the light is cast. The speaker is able to view this scene from quite a distance. She can see the whole landscape and how it changes with each passing moment.
She is stunned by what she sees and exclaims, “O grand and wondrous spectacle.” The sight is far beyond anything she could purely imagine, create or expect.
I stood within a leafy grove,
And gazed around in blissful awe;
The sky appeared one mass of blue,
That seemed to spread from sea to shore.
The next line is the first in which the speaker refers to herself in the first person. This allows the reader to add her into the physical context of the poem. She is not simply retelling a moment from someone else’s history, she is there, in “a leafy grove” seeing the sunrise for herself.
She is “gaz[ing] around” the landscape in awe. She either did not expect to see the sunrise or was shocked by how beautiful it really was. The following lines give some more of the most basic details. She speaks of how the sky was one “mass of blue.” It was so vast that it appeared to reach from the “sea to shore.” There was no end to its breadth.
Far as the human eye could see,
Were stretched the fields of waving corn.
Soft on my ear the warbling birds
Were heralding the birth of morn.
In the third quatrain of ‘Morning on the Sinnecock’, the speaker continues with the same thought, but she moves down to spend time speaking on the “plain,” or fields that stretch out before her. They expand, as the sky does, farther than she could ever see. They are filled with “waving corn” and played host to “warbling birds.” The birds sing out from all around her, “heralding” the “morn” with their song.
While here and there a cottage quaint
Seemed to repose in quiet ease
Amid the trees, whose leaflets waved
And fluttered in the passing breeze.
The second half of the poem begins with the speaker describing the small pinpoints of civilization that can be seen from where she is standing. There are, “here and there,” a few cottages. They are “quaint,” small, and old fashioned. Their presence in the landscape is not overbearing or distracting. They sit amongst the densest parts of nature in “repose.” The houses seem to belong where they are, “Amid the trees,” whose leaves are “flutt[ering] in the “passing breeze.”
This description shows how it is possible for humankind, in small and considerate circumstances, to exist within nature without throwing off the balance of the ecosystem.
O morning hour! so dear thy joy,
And how I longed for thee to last;
But e’en thy fading into day
Brought me an echo of the past.
As the poem reaches its second to last stanza the speaker brings the “morning hour” to a close. This is something she deeply regrets and wishes could last longer. It is important to remember that the beauty of these moments is contingent on the fact that they cannot last. There is no way for this kind of transient beauty to find a permanent place in the world.
The speaker may “long” for the morning to last, but it is already “fading” into the day. The brighter moments of the coming hours are here and driving off the morning. Although the first seconds of the sunrise might be lost, the day still brings the speaker “an echo of the past.” There are hints of what she previously saw in the less remarkable sights of mid-day.
’Twas this,—how fair my life began;
How pleasant was its hour of dawn;
But, merging into sorrow’s day,
Then beauty faded with the morn.
In the final stanza of ‘Morning on the Sinnecock’, the poet brings her readers to the conclusion. She has not only been describing these as individual moments in nature, but also as parts of her life on a grander scale. She was not just retelling a series of remarkable sights, she was seeing her own life play out.
When she was first born, and initially encountered the various beautiful elements of the world, she was as vibrant and “pleasant” as the sunrise. Just as the beginning of the day seemed to be flawless, so too was the beginning of the speaker’s life. She was yet to encounter the difficulties that come with the later parts of the day, and life itself.
The beauty of the “faded…morn” merged with “sorrow’s day.”