The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Body of Summer” is a free-verse poem of four stanzas. The poem can be divided in half: The first two stanzas describe a landscape in the voice of a third-person narrator; the last two stanzas address the personified landscape directly in the song of the “little siren.”

A deceptively simple description of midsummer opens the poem: “A long time has passed since the last rainfall was heard.” The landscape is dry, parched from long drought. “Now the sky burns endlessly.” Populated by ants and lizards, the landscape seems inhuman, yet the fruit trees “paint their mouths” with the colors of overripe fruit splitting in the sun, and the earth is slowly opening its thirsty pores. Instead of the elemental sound of rain from above, the “syllabic” drip of water is heard from a hidden spring below that trickles the rudiments of language, as though the earth itself is beginning to speak.

Beside the spring, a “huge plant” gazes into the eye of the sun. Like the fruit trees and the water, which are nonspecific (neither pears nor pomegranates, neither fountain nor stream), the plant is generic and anonymous. Perhaps it is a sunflower, which, like the soul of man (especially Greek man), follows the sun.

The second stanza compares this landscape to a personage, not really a person, that is reclining sensuously on the shore, huge and naked, smoking olive leaves, like Gulliver stranded on the beach. Like Lilliputians,...

(The entire section is 465 words.)