W William Blake

To Summer by William Blake

‘To Summer’ is one of four “seasons” poems that Blake wrote. The others are ‘To Spring,’ ‘To Fall,’ and ‘To Winter.’ The three are united through their related images and their allusions to other, more complex works by William Blake. For example, the personified versions of Summer, Spring, etc., might be related to other characters Blake crafted, such as Urizen or Orc. Alternatively, the reading of these four poems might be simpler, a celebration of the seasons. 

To Summer by William Blake


Summary of To Summer

‘To Summer’ by William Blake is a thoughtful poem that personifies summer and depicts his impact on the English landscape and people.

In the first stanza of ‘To Summer,’ the speaker begins by recalling how in the past, as now, summer has come to rest on the land. The heat has overtaken everything, and the world is transformed. The passion seen in spring comes to fruition with the bards, youths, and maidens celebrating. 


Themes in To Summer

The themes in ‘To Summer’ are quite obvious. Blake is celebrating the season of summer, as well as themes of joy and success. The latter is related to the poem’s broader context as it alluded to England’s role in the world when the poem was written. Joy and summer are connected to the speaker’s mind. He imagines summer as a god-like figure who visits England each year and brings pleasure to the worlds of the young men, women, and artists of the nation. He uses words like “golden,” “ruddy,” and “flames” to convey what the season is like for those who experience it. 


Structure and Form

‘To Summer’ by William Blake is a three-stanza poem separated into two sets of six lines, known as sestets, and one set of seven. The stanzas do not follow a specific rhyme scheme, but there are several examples of half-rhyme. This is a rhyme in which only part of the word rhymes, usually either via an assonant sound or consonant sound. For example, “beheld” and “heard” in line five of the first stanza and line on in the first stanza. The meter, on the other hand, is quite regular. 


Literary Devices

Blake makes use of several literary devices in ‘To Summer.’ These include but are not limited to enjambment, imagery, and alliteration. The latter is a formal technique that is concerned with the use and reuse of the same consonant sound. For example, “Beneath” and “beheld” in line five of the first stanza and “bank beside” in stanza two, line five. 

Enjambment is another formal device in which the poet strategically uses line breaks. For example, the transition between lines one and two of the first stanza as well as lines three and four of the second stanza. 

There are also several good examples of caesurae in the poem. There is a good example in the same line, like three of stanza two. It reads: “Rode o’er the deep of heaven; besides our springs.” This poem would not be what it is without the wonderful examples of imagery in its lines. Imagery involves the creation of lines that engages the reader’s senses. This is more than just sight, but also taste, sound, and touch. For example, the poem’s last lines read: “Nor echoes sweet, nor waters clear as heaven, / Nor laurel wreaths against the sultry heat.”


Analysis of To Summer 

Stanza One

O Thou who passest thro’ our vallies in

Thy strength, curb thy fierce steeds, allay the heat

That flames from their large nostrils! thou, O Summer,

Oft pitched’st here thy golden tent, and oft

Beneath our oaks hast slept, while we beheld

With joy, thy ruddy limbs and flourishing hair.

In the first stanza of ‘To Summer,’ the speaker begins by personifying summer. This is something that readers who have any experience with William Blake’s poetry will be unsurprised by. The speaker describes how here, summer has arrived, and pitched his “golden tent. “ He “slept“ underneath the oak trees while “we, “humanity, enjoyed his presence.

In an effort to continue the personified traits of summer and connect them to a seemingly physical human being, Blake describes summer’s “ruddy limbs and flourishing hair. “  

Another feature of this first and said that raider should take note of is called an apostrophe. This is a reference to a literary device used by poets to address something incapable of responding. Sometimes it is used to speak to those who passed away, other times to speak to inanimate objects, forces like summer, or more. Summer has come to rest amongst the English landscape in this stanza. 


Stanza Two 

Beneath our thickest shades we oft have heard

Thy voice, when noon upon his fervid car

Rode o’er the deep of heaven; beside our springs

Sit down, and in our mossy vallies, on

Some bank beside a river clear, throw thy

Silk draperies off, and rush into the stream:

Our vallies love the Summer in his pride.

The second stanza of ‘To Summer’ emphasizes how important this season is to the people of the area. Everyone is bolstered by the summer’s presence, which is his intention. The speaker looks into the past and recalls all the times that the coming of summer, described as his arrival “upon his fervid car, “ brought them joy. In the stanza, readers can also find examples of alliteration, caesurae, and enjambment. Blake repeats words that start with the “r” and “s” consonant sound to mimic the rushing stream’s sound.


Stanza Three 

Our bards are fam’d who strike the silver wire:

Our youth are bolder than the southern swains:

Our maidens fairer in the sprightly dance:

We lack not songs, nor instruments of joy,

Nor echoes sweet, nor waters clear as heaven,

Nor laurel wreaths against the sultry heat.

The final stanza of ‘To Summer’ is the most evocative. Blake uses anaphora in order to list out several of the people in the country who celebrate in their own ways the coming of summer. If they haven’t already, readers should go back and read ‘To Spring’ which sets up the summer sequence quite well. The bards, singers, and writers of poetry are striking their silver wire, playing their instruments. 

The youths are bold in their warmth and joy. More so, Blake says, “than the southern swains.” This suggests that the use of England is even more passionate and alive than those who live in the southern climes and are more used to this kind of weather. England’s maidens, at the same time, or even fairer as they dance. 

When the “sultry heat“ comes to England, “we“ lack nothing. The men and women of the country celebrate just as well as anyone else. Some scholars have associated this poem, especially this passage, with a broader understanding of the British Empire. This poem was written as the empire was rising, which could very well be represented as a sultry summer where the heat and happiness or power are rising.


Similar Poetry

Readers who enjoyed this piece should certainly look into reading Blake’s other season poems, such as To Autumn’. Some other interesting poems related to summer are ‘Summer Shower’ by Emily Dickinson and ‘Summer Past’ by John Gray. The latter describes a past summer that contained elements much treasured by the speaker for their divine and natural beauty. The former, ‘Summer Shower’, is a joyful and image-rich poem that describes the various elements of a summer storm through figurative language. 

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Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.

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