A Given Day Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

“A Given Day” is the final poem in The Vixen. It is written in the same form as all the poems in that collection, and all the poems seem to flow into one another with similar tones and images, so that the reader who reaches “A Given Day” has already experienced many days in this lyrical narrative. As with many other poems in The Vixen, “A Given Day” returns to autumn, but here the speaker in the poem is waking at first light. Where once the speaker was concerned with darkness or shadows, as in “Ancestral Voices,” now the poem is concentrated on that moment of dawn.

There is no punctuation, and the first word is the only capitalized one. This poem is the beginning of a new day in which the poet remembers daily things—walking on a bridge, “thinking of a friend while she was still alive,” being in a room with friends, and the eyes of animals. These small things are fused into each other like in a dream. Each line is enjambed into the next line, and each image flows into the next image. In the end, the rising day and all memory leads onward to winter. The reader might feel a sense of relief as the dying season of autumn finally comes to a close, for winter is a time of rest.

A Given Day Bibliography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bloom, Harold, ed. W. S. Merwin. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004.

Byers, Thomas G. What I Cannot Say: Self, Word, and World in Whitman, Stevens, and Merwin. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989.

Christhilf, Mark. W. S. Merwin, the Mythmaker. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1986.

Davis, Cheri. W. S. Merwin. Boston: Twayne, 1981.

Hix, H. L. Understanding W. S. Merwin. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Hoeppner, Edward Haworth. Echoes and Moving Fields: Structure and Subjectivity in the Poetry of W. S. Merwin and John Ashbery. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1994.

Mark, Irwin, ed. Many Mountains Moving: A Tribute to W. S. Merwin. Boulder, Colo.: Many Mountains Moving, 2002.

Merwin, W. S. Unframed Originals. New York: Atheneum, 1982.

Nelson, Cary, and Ed Folsom, eds. W. S. Merwin: Essays on the Poetry. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.

Scigaj, Leonard M. Sustainable Poetry: Four American Ecopoets. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1999.

Shaw, Robert B., ed. American Poetry Since 1960: Some Critical Perspectives. Chester Springs, Pa.: Dufour, 1974.