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13 April 2012

Make me a picture of the sun—


Make me a picture of the sun—

So I can hang it in my room—

And make believe I'm getting warm

When others call it "Day"!



Draw me a Robin—on a stem—

So I am hearing him, I'll dream,

And when the Orchards stop their tune—

Put my pretense—away—



Say if it's really—warm at noon—

Whether it's Buttercups—that "skim"—

Or Butterflies—that "bloom"?

Then—skip—the frost—upon the lea—

And skip the Russet—on the tree—

Let's play those—never come!
                                                            F 239 (1861)  188

As if she were a shut in and lived entirely in the imagination, the poet asks for a few things that represent the fullness of life: Day and Summer. She uses a childish diction as if it were a game, yet one suspects it is a serious sort of game.
            She begins by asking for a “picture of the sun” to hang in her room. That way when others report that it is “Day” she can imagine the warmth of its rays. That would be pleasant. Likewise, in the second verse, she requests a picture of a robin perched on a sturdy flower stem. As long as she can here is song she can dream. That, too, is pleasant. But at the end of the day when the songbirds have quieted, she will be ready to give up the “pretense” and turn to night-time dreaming instead of daydreaming.
            In the last stanza she asks to hear all the lovely summer details: that it’s “warm at noon” and if the buttercups frost the meadow with their bright yellow flowers, or if butterflies are so thick they look like blooming flowers as they rest upon the grasses. All this is a pleasant game to while away the days of a shut in. And who knows? She may have written this poem during a period of illness or a time when she stayed indoors.
Little bird enjoying the last of the
apples before winter
            But while summer and day symbolize the fullness of life, autumn signifies the coming end of life. Frost on the meadow is a harbinger of snow in the winter. The late russet apple reminds us that the harvest is nearly over. We can just skip that part, the poet says. A faint echo of the apple’s role in Eve’s temptation and the Fall from Grace linger in the line. And then in a fun play on words, she wants to “play” that those symbols of fall never come. The obvious alternate word is “pray,” but the choice of play is in keeping with the spirit of make believe that pervades the poem. To pray that winter doesn’t come would inject too serious a note.
            The imagery is all rather conventional: sun, robin, orchards, buttercups, butterflies, frost on the meadow, and apples on the tree. The hanging on to summer is also a rather conventional thought.


1 comment:

  1. I read this as a satire of religious iconography that seems to suggest all good things to those who wait while not explaining the more difficult aspects of a life in faith.

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