Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can’t sustain the part.
—“Fireflies in the Garden,” Robert Frost
After a week of blue skies and high temperatures—and two weeks of underfoot children—I’m ready to tentatively concede that Summer is finally, finally here. For real.
This calls for a poem or two, y’all.
In slight concession to indy clause, who challenged me to a Poem-Off as a birthday present, I’ve chosen a couple favorites from the 19th Century. including the one above, which proves that Robert Frost did have a whimsical side.
John Keats . . . didn’t, much, but when someone writes stuff as good as this, who cares?*
On the Grasshopper and Cricket
The Poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s—he takes the lead
In summer luxury,—he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.
George Moses Horton will get his own post soon—poets work hard, but few have ever worked as hard as he did—but for today, I’ll just share his description of summer:
(George Moses Horton)
Esteville begins to burn;
The auburn fields of harvest rise;
The torrid flames again return,
And thunders roll along the skies.
Perspiring Cancer lifts his head,
And roars terrific from on high;
Whose voice the timid creatures dread;
From which they strive with awe to fly.
The night-hawk ventures from his cell,
And starts his note in evening air;
He feels the heat his bosom swell,
Which drives away the gloom of fear.
Thou noisy insect, start thy drum;
Rise lamp-like bugs to light the train;
And bid sweet Philomela come,
And sound in front the nightly strain.
The bee begins her ceaseless hum,
And doth with sweet exertions rise;
And with delight she stores her comb,
And well her rising stock supplies.
Let sportive children well beware,
While sprightly frisking o’er the green;
And carefully avoid the snare,
Which lurks beneath the smiling scene.
The mistress bird assumes her nest,
And broods in silence on the tree,
Her note to cease, her wings at rest,
She patient waits her young to see.
*This also gives Christina Rosetti a pass, in my opinion—and also because her few attempts at childlike whimsy remind me of Morticia Addams reading “The Cat in the Hat” to preschoolers. I’m saving her for Halloween. Thomas Hardy does not get a pass—which should surprise no one who knows me—because Ms. Rosetti, like Emily Dickenson—and Morticia Addams—can examine death from all angles (or angle-worms, for that matter) without depressing the living hell out of me.