There's something magical about long summer days and hot summer nights. When you find yourself at a loss for words to describe summer, you can rely on famous poets to steer you in the right direction. You can also write your own short summer poems, including acrostic poems and haiku, to capture this special season. Keep reading for famous summer poems by well-known poets, as well as ideas for your own original poems about summer.
You may think that only spring, autumn and winter are mainly featured in famous seasonal poems. After all, their dramatic changes and holidays are the source of artistic works all over the world. But many famous poets have something to say about summer, as well!
In Carl Sandburg's "Back Yard," he describes a gorgeous summer night. It's filled with the sights and sounds of the season, as well as the languid feel of a warm evening under the moon.
"Shine on, O moon of summer.
Shine to the leaves of grass, catalpa and oak,
All silver under your rain to-night.
An Italian boy is sending songs to you to-night from an accordion.
A Polish boy is out with his best girl; they marry next month;
to-night they are throwing you kisses.
An old man next door is dreaming over a sheen that sits in a
cherry tree in his back yard.
The clocks say I must go—I stay here sitting on the back porch drinking
white thoughts you rain down.
Shine on, O moon,
Shake out more and more silver changes."
Robert Louis Stevenson's "Bed in Summer" is a playful complaint about long summer days. He states that he must endure the loveliness of summer at bedtime as he "goes to bed by day."
"In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.
I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.
And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?"
For some, summer is a time of sweet childhood memories. Robert Frost expresses a moment where his reflection in a puddle is "in the summer heaven godlike" before glimpsing — then losing — a precious opportunity in his poem, "For Once, Then, Something."
"Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something."
"In Summer" is a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar that perfectly describes the deft hand of summer as it caresses Earth. It touches on the heat of summer, the "freedom of lakes and lands" and "the pleasures of work and rest."
"Oh, summer has clothed the earth
In a cloak from the loom of the sun!
And a mantle, too, of the skies' soft blue,
And a belt where the rivers run.
And now for the kiss of the wind,
And the touch of the air's soft hands,
With the rest from strife and the heat of life,
With the freedom of lakes and lands.
I envy the farmer's boy
Who sings as he follows the plow;
While the shining green of the young blades lean
To the breezes that cool his brow.
He sings to the dewy morn,
No thought of another's ear;
But the song he sings is a chant for kings
And the whole wide world to hear.
He sings of the joys of life,
Of the pleasures of work and rest,
From an o'erfull heart, without aim or art;
'Tis a song of the merriest ..."
If you've ever absorbed the feeling of an August afternoon in your hometown — the warm weather, the "cheerful chirp of crickets" and the pleasure of sitting still — then Emma Lazarus's "Long Island Sound" will resonate with you. It's the perfect picture of an August afternoon forever painted in one's memory.
"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."
John Keats' poem "On the Grasshopper and Cricket" describes the delicate and ongoing "poetry of earth." He contrasts the songs of the summer grasshopper and the winter cricket, noting that though they thrive in different seasons, their song keeps the Earth's sounds moving.
"The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's—he takes the lead
In summer luxury,—he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills."
Perhaps there is no more famous line from summer poetry than "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" William Shakespeare's "Sonnet 18" compares the beauty of the speaker's love to a "temperate" summer's day with "gold complexion." However, unlike the short length of a summer season, the object of his affection "shall never fade."
"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."
While you don't need to look much further than the masters to find excellent summer poems, there's no need to rely on famous poetry to express how a summer morning, afternoon or evening feels. Once you're ready to write your own summer poems, use these original short poems to inspire you.
Many classic poems about summer are long and languid, just like the far-stretching sunshine of a summer day. But you can get the sensory point across with a short poem just as easily. The key to any seasonal poem is the imagery. Once you can identify what the reader feels, smells, tastes, sees or hears, you can easily paint a picture of summer.
This original free verse poem is about the beginning of summer vacation:
With the last school bell I can feel the sand
crunch under my feet and ricochet across my skin
carried by the hot wind that pulls a cool tide
closer to my toes.
If you'd like a stricter rhyme scheme, try out a short poem about the Fourth of July like this:
The sun has slipped behind the hills
Its heat replaced by breezy chills
Silver stars dot blackened sky
Their brillant glow now hidden by
Explosive colors, red and green,
Blue and pink, aquamarine,
BOOMS and POP-POPS shake the ground
Balls of brightness twinkle down
We gasp and point at sparkles north
A coda for July the fourth.
Haiku poems are an excellent way to express the beauty of summer.
Haiku use nature imagery to express a deeper point, as 17th-century poet Matsuo Basho demonstrates in his haiku, "Natsuka," about summer grass being the only living thing left behind by war.
Natsukusa ya (The summer grass)
tsuwamono domo ga (is all that remains)
yume no ato (of Samarai's dreams)
You can try out your own haiku about summer as well. Explore this original haiku for any syllable guidance or inspiration.
Summer heat sizzles
on my skin; the sun proclaims
July is now in bloom.
If you're writing about the transition between spring and summer, take a look at this poem about the turn of the season:
Rainy mornings give
way to searing nights, aglow
with saved morning light
Try out an easy acrostic poem written to the word "summer" to start, as seen here:
S - Sunny days
U - Umbrella drinks
M - Melon balls
M - Morning heat
E - Easy schedule
R - Restful nights
If you'd like to get a bit more challenging, make each letter a line instead:
S - Sun-drenched poolside, sweat dripping down my
U - Umbrella drink and forehead, watching kids grab
M - Melon balls from the fruit platter, their hands sticky in the
M - Morning heat; swimming at 9 am makes for an
E - Easy schedule of fun and recreation, blankets of heat leading to
R - Restful nights under the stars.
You can even try a rhyming poem in acrostic form, as in this month-specific acrostic:
A - As waves of heat pulse beach-drawn crowds
U - Undeterred by gulls above
G - Gritty breezes swirl in clouds
U - Uniting sandy currents of
S - Summer tidings, ocean waving, proud
T - To welcome August on the beach with love
Summer is a season best celebrated outdoors with friends and in beautiful poetry. Whether you decide to read your favorite classics or try your hand at original poetry, writing summer poems is a fun and relaxing ode to the season of vacation. For more seasonal poetry, check out some original and classic poems about spring. You can also use these springtime words to make your vocabulary bloom as you write your own spring poetry.