I'm reading "To The Fringed Gentian" and I don't understand it at all. Could I get a summary in words that I can understand?

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edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In stanza one, the poem's speaker addresses the titular flower. He observes that the gentian blooms bright blue in the morning sunlight of the autumn.

In stanza two, the speaker observes that the gentian blooms not in the spring, when flowers like violets and columbines grace the spring landscape where birds nest.

In stanza three the speaker reiterates the idea that the gentian waits until fall when the leaves have fallen from the trees and the birds have migrated elsewhere. It blooms in the days near the end of the year, marked the the frosts of autumn. It is singular in this way.

In stanza four, the speaker observes that the flower's face turns upward to the sky, and that the flower's fringes create the effect of eyelashes. The sky-blue shade of the blossom looks to the speaker like a piece of the sky fallen to earth.

In the poem's final stanza, the speaker expresses his hope that when the end of his life draws near, he will behave in a similar fashion, looking to heaven in his heart the way the flower looks to the sky, knowing that the life it has left will be fleeting but blooming nonetheless.  


jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The gentian is a group of plants, with approximately 180 varieties.

The gentian described by William Cullen Bryant in "To The Fringed Gentian" sounds like the Autumn Gentian.

The bulk of Bryant's poem is an extensive description of the gentian. 

It blossoms in the autumn; it is colored sky blue.  It does not blossom in springtime like violets or columbines.  Rather, it blossoms late, when "woods are bare and birds are flown" away, and frost and shorter days signal that the year is almost over.  That is when the gentian looks "through its fringes to the sky."

In the last stanza, Bryant uses the gentian as a metaphor.  Just as the gentian blossoms when the warm weather is nearly over, he hopes that when his own "hour of death" approaches, hope will blossom within his heart and he will look to heaven as he departs from this world.  In other words, he prays that he will remain cheerful and hopeful even at the end of his life. 


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