“Poem for an Anniversary” is a brief poem of twenty-four lines divided into four sestets. Each stanza is made up of a pattern of short and long lines; the first and last lines are terse and repeat a sentencelike format, and each stanza is, in itself, a complete thought. The poem gives the reader a command (“admit then and be glad”) at the onset of each stanza, and each order is reminiscent of an action associated with an anniversary celebration: admit, remember, admire, and survey.
The anniversary of the title is never specifically indicated, yet the reader is left with a sense of worldwide chronology. There are references to boiling lava, storms, and “giant lightning” that evoke images of the beginning of time. In fact, the beginning of the poem notes the end of a prehistoric age: “Our volcanic age is over.” The second and third stanzas introduce ages “made for peace” in which religious and philosophical thought exists. These lines eschew former times, times in which “foul” love existed, times of evil, thoughtless procreation. The final stanza leads the reader through a new world with a balmy climate in which plants and people flourish. This new world is “Love’s best,” a fecund place and time with fields of grain harvested by a community of people with “linked lives.” These inhabitants are the survivors of fire and storm. They know the value of the rain clouds for engendering fertility and growth rather than causing havoc and wanton destruction. Each anniversary, each harvest, is important because it marks the continuance of stability.