The Summer Image

By Léonie Adams 1899–1988 Leonie Adams

(From a Persian Carpet)

Ash and strewments, the first moth-wings, pale   
Ardour of brief evenings, on the fecund wind;   
Or all a wing, less than wind,
Breath of low herbs upfloats, petal or wing,   
Haunting the musk precincts of burial.
For the season of newer riches moves triumphing,   
Of the evanescence of deaths. These potpourris   
Earth-tinctured, jet insect-bead, cinder of bloom—
How weigh while a great summer knows increase,   
Ceaselessly risen, what there entombs?—
Of candour fallen from the slight stems of Mays,   
Corrupt of the rim a blue shades, pensively:   
So a fatigue of wishes will young eyes.
And brightened, unpurged eyes of revery, now   
Not to glance to fabulous groves again!
For now deep presence is, and binds its close,
And closes down the wreathed alleys escape of sighs.   
And now rich time is weaving, hidden tree,   
The fable of orient threads from bough to bough.   
Old rinded wood, whose lissomeness within   
Has reached from nothing to its covering
These many corymbs’ flourish!—And the green   
Shells which wait amber, breathing, wrought   
Towards the still trance of summer’s centering,   
Motives by ravished humble fingers set,
Each in a noon of its own infinite.
And here is leant the branch and its repose
of the deep leaf to the pilgrim plume. Repose,   
Inflections brilliant and mute of the voyager, light!   
And here the nests, and freshet throats resume   
Notes over and over found, names
For the silvery ascensions of joy. Nothing is here   
But moss and its bells now of the root’s night;
But the beetle’s bower, and arc from grass to grass   
For the flight in gauze. Now its fresh lair,
Grass-deep, nestles the cool eft to stir
Vague newborn limbs, and the bud’s dark winding has   
Access of day. Now on the subtle noon
Time’s image, at pause with being, labours free   
Of all its charge, for each in coverts laid,
Of clement kind; and everlastingly,
In some elision of bright moments is known,
Changed wide as Eden, the branch whose silence sways   
Dazzle of the murmurous leaves to continual tone;   
Its separations, sighing to own again
Being of the ignorant wish; and sways to sight,
Waked from it nighted, the marvelous foundlings of light;   
Risen and weaving from the ceaseless root
A divine ease whispers toward fruitfulness,   
While all a summer’s conscience tempts the fruit.

Léonie Adams, “The Summer Image” from Poems: A Selection (New York: The Noonday Press, 1959). Used by permission of Judith Farr, Literary Executrix of the Estate of Léonie Adams.

Source: Poems: A Selection (1959)

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Poet Léonie Adams 1899–1988

Subjects Nature, Painting & Sculpture, Arts & Sciences, Summer

Poetic Terms Blank Verse


An educator, consultant, editor, and poet, Leonie Adams was best known for her lyric poetry reminiscent of both the Romantic and Metaphysical periods. Her poetry won her several awards, including the Harriet Monroe Poetry Award, the Shelley Memorial Award, and the Bollingen Prize. She served in editorial capacities for both Wilson Publishing and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City during the 1920s and later taught . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Painting & Sculpture, Arts & Sciences, Summer

Poetic Terms Blank Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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