Published in 1800 in the newspaper, “London’s Summer Morning” by Mary Robinson portrays a typical beginning of the day on a London street. The poem written in blank verse places the reader on the street with the sounds and sights of daily life ringing through in the poem.
The poem is a virtual kaleidoscope for the reader depicting the enterprising shopkeepers as they show their wares off behind their huge glass frontages. The movement and sounds of a business street with all that it entails is aptly presented. The poet’s use of imagery creates the mental image of a typical day in 1800 as a prospective buyer proceeds down the crowded streets of London.
Point of view and setting
The poem uses a third person point of view to narrate the poem for the reader. The setting is a busy London business street on a hot summer morning.
The literary devices
Blank Verse-Unrhymed iambic pentameter
Alliteration- Almost every line focuses on some consonant to give the idea of the sounds of the shops
Of vegetable venders, fill the air.
Now every shop displays its varied trade
The milk-pail rattles, and the tinkling bell
Imagery both auditory and visual
The enterprising shopkeepers and the tradesmen of the day selling their wares in an every growing metropolis impact the sleep of the poet
The sounds and sights encountered on a regular day of business in the poet’s time period
The poet describes what sounds would pervade the apartment room above a busy street to awaken one every day: Robinson engages our senses with unrelenting street sounds, sights, and smells:
“Who has not wak’d to list the busy sounds…”
Employing an auditory image for each of the work places, the poet identifies the citizens of the street. These are the sounds and later the sights that wake her every morning: the noisy commerce on business street.
The sooty chimney-boy shrilly crying out for work…One can almost hear his calling for chimneys to clean.
The wagons and carts stir up a cloud of dust which covers everything on the street
The poetess recalls the sharp and noisy sounds of the tin men, the knife-grinders, and the cork-cutters
Appealing to the nose, there are fruit sellers and vegetable venders displaying and crying out their new crops and the pastries dainties waiting behind the glass
The shops find the people peering into the windows looking for bargains or searching for a prize.
Now the sun
Darts burning splendour on the glittering pane,
Save where the canvas awning throws a shade
On the day merchandize. Now, spruce and trim,
In shops… Sits the smart damsel; while the passenger
Peeps through the window
…The sun comes out and the insects hum
The lamp lighter prepares the lamps for the evening time
The pot boy who cleans the wares for the maids sounds out his trade… the old clothes man who collects and sells the throw away clothes
Sometimes the goods have been stolen.
A porter carries his goods for someone along the hot pavement.
The poet awakens from her dreams to paint the morning sounds and sights in the words of her poem.
To read the poem is to take a step back in time and visit the din of an early nineteenth century metropolis. It is a fun poem to read!