The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Timothy Steele’s “An Aubade” uses and renews an ancient poetic form, the aubade. In a traditional aubade, the dawn comes to announce the separation of two lovers. In Steele’s poem, the lovers are already separated in the first stanza: She is in the shower and he is waking in the bed. In addition, there is no dawn announced or described in this stanza; there is, however, the “shine of earrings on the bedside stand.” There is also a light that comes from a “yellow sheet” covering him like a false dawn. Its “folds” are metaphorically described as a painting “from some fine old master’s hand.”

The lovers are brought more closely together in the second stanza, although they are not united. He embraces the “pillow” that “Retains the salty sweetness of her skin.” The image is an interesting mixture of tastes, and it connects the lovers through imagery and memory although they are still physically separated. From this image, he can “sense her smooth back, buttocks, belly, waist.” One image of her body triggers other images that bring her closer to him. In addition, he retains the memory of their lovemaking and her “leggy warmth” which “laced/ Around my legs and loins, and drew me in.”

The lovers are connected by a sound image in the third stanza as he hears her “Singing among the water’s hiss and race.” Then the dawn comes, as “early light” reveals a scene of “perfume bottles” and a “silver...

(The entire section is 467 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“An Aubade” is written in a regular iambic pentameter throughout the poem. Steele uses a five-line stanza in this poem with an intricate abaab rhyme scheme. The lines, for the most part, run on and support the ongoing observation of the male lover who narrates the poem. This is especially so as the poem, and the view of the speaker, spills from line to line and object to object until the speaker lights upon the naked woman. The rhymes seem natural and are never forced. Steele wittily rhymes “hear her” and “clearer” in the third stanza. In the fourth stanza, there is a break in the rhyme scheme as “with” does not rhyme with “forgive” or “fugitive.” It does not seem to have any expressive purpose.

There is one simile in the poem, although it does not contribute as much as other elements to the overall effect of the poem. In the first stanza, the covers over the male lover are described in “folds as intricate as drapery/ In paintings from some fine old master’s hand.” This is another object that is precisely described in the poem, and it is a male image, contrasting with the feminine objects that dominate the poem.

The principal poetic element in the poem is the imagery. There are images of light, such as the “shine of earrings” and the “silver flashlight,” which take the place of the dawn in the usual aubade. There are images of other objects, such as the “perfume bottles” and the “shiny...

(The entire section is 416 words.)