The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Cesare Pavese’s “Grappa in September” is a four-stanza, free-verse narrative poem about the state of nature just before harvest. First published before World War II, the poem describes autumn mornings in the northern Italian countryside in the early part of the twentieth century. The land has reached the height of its season, and the women flourish as much as the land; even the clouds in the sky give the impression of being at the peak of perfection. The men, however, are not a part of this autumnal readiness. They watch their land and their women from a distance, enjoying the view, consuming the products of past harvests. The men do not interact with the world around them.

Mornings in this part of Italy “run their course, clear and deserted/ along the river’s banks,” which turn a darker green just before the fog is burned off by the rising sun. A house that sits close to the edge of a field sells tobacco that “tastes of sugar” and “gives off a bluish haze.” The house also sells grappa, a cheap, potent brandy common to northern Italy made from the leftover skins and stems of grapes used to manufacture wine. Distant trees that stand under “occasional” plump clouds conceal “fruit so ripe/ it would drop at a touch.” The ripeness of autumn is not confined to the country, however. In the city, houses are “mellowing in the mild air.”

The land is lush and fecund, and in the early mornings only women are outside. The...

(The entire section is 435 words.)