To Summer, a Poem by William Blake

William Blake (1757-1827) was a British poet and artist during the early Romantic Period. He wrote many poems expressing wonder about the world. This poem about summer is in that vein, revealing an idealized view of a personified season.

To Summer

O thou who passest thro' our valleys 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.
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 valleys, on

Some bank beside a river clear, throw thy
Silk draperies off, and rush into the stream:
Our valleys love the Summer in his pride.

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 great and fierce warrior, Summer, with a steed shooting flames from his nostrils, lies down and rests on England's soil, to be admired and infuse his power in its people. We see the effect of this in the bards, swains, dancing maidens, and songs. The poem is almost jingoistic, yet it glories not in war, but in culture. This poem was written as the British Empire was rising. Yet Blake was very familiar with the many threats to the empire (as well as the well-being it fostered) by outside forces, especially Napoleonic France. The poem projects confidence, joy, and strength. Choosing to personify summer, and to credit it with the power of the nation, he does not mean that it is the summer climate that infuses Britain, for summers in England are likely to be less warm than those experienced by "southern swains". Rather he refers to the Empire, in the early summer of its existence.

Blake was associated with many famous people of the Britain of his day. His politics had a Whiggish cast that colored his poetry. He supported the American colonies in their struggle for rights against King George III and Parliament.1

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  1. Biography of Blake

Interesting Fact:

Personification, giving human qualities to things, is a common tool of poets. Blake makes the season, summer, a warrior in this poem.


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