‘Song’ is written by one of the most widely-read contemporary poets of America, Robert Hass. Hass served as Poet Laureate of the US from 1995 to 1997 and received numerous awards for his poetry collections. Robert Hass’s poems have a stylistic clarity, clear language, and precise use of imagery. Likewise, in this piece, Hass beautifully utilizes colorful images in order to convey the mood of autumn.
‘Song’ by Robert Hass depicts an autumn afternoon where a speaker is seen to be cooking for his/her loved ones.
In this poem, Hass beautifully depicts an autumn afternoon by using precise images. This poem is not a personal recapitulation of a day. Rather, it is more about the colors of nature and how it displays the internal emotions of the speaker. He is seen cooking for his loved ones. In the first stanza, he describes the natural landscape. Then, the poet goes on to describe the surroundings and the room where the food is served.
You can read the full poem here.
Afternoon cooking in the fall sun —
who is more naked
to throw their bodies on the Papa-body,
Robert Hass’s ‘Song’ begins with a description of a September afternoon. A speaker is all alone, cooking in the kitchen. The overall poem displays the spectacle through his eyes. He is probably the poet’s persona. In the first lines, he describes the autumn sun as a naked man. It is more naked than a man as it has lost the summer radiance.
According to the speaker, the sun is more like a man who returns from his job, tired. As the trees have already started to shed their trees, it seems nature has turned into an empty house. The sun shines over it, thinking the bay is clear.
In the next lines, the speaker depicts the autumnal features one by one. The hills appear to be in yellow flames, and the scrub oaks are wearing red leaves. Though the sun has lost its radiance, nature has not.
Soon, all the leaves are going to fall down. The speaker thinks they are the children of nature. They are waiting to embrace their “Papa-body” and hark “I-am-loved” in the near future.
Cat sleeps in the windowgleam,
on a bone-white dish.
The second stanza of ‘Song’ focuses on the ambiance of the room. In the speaker’s home, the cat sleeps in the soft sparkle coming from the window. There are dust motes here and there. From this preliminary description of the room, it seems the speaker is hinting at the end of life.
There is an oak table on which he has placed the cooked food. He stewed filets of sole (a kind of sea fish) in the juice of tangerines. Then he added slices of green pepper. This item is placed on a “bone-white dish”. The color of the dish is contrasted with the colors of the ingredients.
Hass’s ‘Song’ is a free-verse lyric poem that consists of two stanzas. The first and second stanzas contain 12 & 7 lines respectively. There is no regular rhyme scheme or meter in the text. Hass writes this piece in a conversational manner, addressing the readers to see how nature takes a new shape during autumn. Besides, the text is written from the perspective of a third-person narrator who is the poet himself. His persona describes a speaker’s room and nature.
The poem ‘Song’ contains the following literary devices.
- Enjambment: Hass uses this device to join the lines internally and maintain an unbreakable flow throughout the text. For instance, readers can find the use of this device in the first four lines.
- Rhetorical Question: It occurs in “to an empty house?” Here, the speaker’s house is displayed, apparently empty.
- Metaphor: The line “the hills in yellow heat” contains a metaphor. In this line, the yellow leaves are compared to flames.
- Imagery: Hass extensively uses visual imagery to depict the colors of autumn. For instance, “the hills in yellow heat,/ & scrub oak red in gullies” contain this device.
Robert Hass’s ‘Song’ is about a lonely autumn afternoon. A speaker is cooking and, at the same time, observing nature. This piece depicts how the external ambiance resonates with the internal environment of the speaker’s room.
Hass employs a number of themes in this poem that include change, autumn, food, and loneliness. The main idea of the poem revolves around the faded beauty of autumn and how it resonates with the environment of a speaker’s room.
The tone of this piece is calm, reflective, and disinterested. It remains fixed throughout the piece. This piece implicitly hints at the transience of life. Hence, Hass uses this tone.
Here is a list of a few poems that tap on similar themes present in Robert Hass’s poem ‘Song’.
- ‘Autumn Song’ by Sarojini Naidu — This poem presents the universal theme of change during autumn.
- ‘Autumn Fires’ by Robert Louis Stevenson — This piece compares autumn colors to a raging wildfire.
- ‘The Heat of Autumn’ by Jane Hirshfield — This poem is about the difference between summer heat and autumn heat.
You can also read about these beautiful autumn poems.