Summer Poems: 12 Verses for the Season

excerpt from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "The Throstle"

On a hot summer day, we love nothing more than to settle down in a cool corner with an engrossing novel. But while perusing A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year, from Bas Bleu’s Summer 2019 edition, we began thinking about how the intensity of the season—the blanket of heat, the endless symphony of insects, gardens bursting with fresh produce, the long days that somehow add up to much-too-short months—is perhaps best captured in summer poems. Today, as the furnace blast that is July in Georgia engulfs our editorial office in Atlanta, our editors have selected a dozen of our favorite summer poems with which to surrender yourself to the season. (To read each poem in full, click on the title or image.)

excerpt from John Clare's poem "Summer"

“When the thunder stalks the sky,
When tickle-footed walks the fly,
When shirt is wet and throat is dry,
Look, my darling, that’s July.

“Though the grass lawn be leather,
And prickly temper tug the tether,
Shall we postpone our love for weather?
If we must melt, let’s melt together!” —Ogden Nash, “Summer Serenade”

excerpt from Dick Allan poem "If You Get There Before I Do"

“I see it as it looked one afternoon
In August,—by a fresh soft breeze o’erblown.
The swiftness of the tide, the light thereon,
A far-off sail, white as a crescent moon.
The shining waters with pale currents strewn,
The quiet fishing-smacks, the Eastern cove,
The semi-circle of its dark, green grove.
The luminous grasses, and the merry sun
In the grave sky; the sparkle far and wide,
Laughter of unseen children, cheerful chirp
Of crickets, and low lisp of rippling tide,
Light summer clouds fantastical as sleep
Changing unnoted while I gazed thereon.
All these fair sounds and sights I made my own.”
—Emma Lazarus, “Long Island Sound”

excerpt from Sara Teasdale's poem "Summer Nights, Riverside"

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” —William Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII

excerpt from Carl Sandburg's poem "Back Yard"

“Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night.”

—Mark Twain, “Warm Summer Sun” (adapted from Robert Richardson’s poem “Annette” for Olivia Susan Clemens’s headstone)

excerpt from Paul Laurence Dunbar's "In Summer"

“O wind, rend open the heat,
Cut apart the heat,
Rend it to tatters.

“Fruit cannot drop
Through this thick air—
Fruit cannot fall into heat
That presses up and blunts
The points of pears
And rounds the grapes.

“Cut the heat—
Plough through it,
Turning it on either side
Of your path.” —H. D., “Heat”

excerpt from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "The Throstle"

“I always like summer
best
you can eat fresh corn
from daddy’s garden
and okra
and greens
and cabbage
and lots of
barbecue
and buttermilk
and homemade ice-cream
at the church picnic
and listen to
gospel music
outside
at the church
homecoming
and go to the mountains with
your grandmother
and go barefooted
and be warm
all the time
not only when you go to bed
and sleep” —Nikki Giovanni, “Knoxville, Tennessee”

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