The solstice on 21st June marks the official beginning of summer; a season for beach trips, long evenings, and invariably, some great British weather. Read on for some of our favourite poems which celebrate the warmest season by classic and contemporary poets including Edward Thomas, William Shakespeare and Picador's own Hollie McNish.
When we got to the beach by Hollie McNish
sprinted to the sea
flung off shoes and socks
ran towards imagined heaving waves
and jumped each tiny trickle that I found there
with just the same excitement
you stayed back
took your socks off more timidly
giggled at your stupid mother
eventually took my hand
we jumped together
and we jumped together
and we jumped together
three hours later
collapsing on our backs
we made angels in the sand
the seaside always made me
want to scream
Adlestrop by Edward Thomas
Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
Over hill, over dale - from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
A wood near Athens. A Fairy speaks.
Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire
I do wander every where,
Swifter than the moon’s sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green:
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dew-drops here
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.
Farewell, thou lob of spirits: I’ll be gone;
Our queen and all her elves come here anon.
A Midsummer Night's Dream is available in hardback from the Macmillan Collector's Library.
A Green Thought by Katharine Towers
Say instead it was an evening in head-high
bracken with its smell of dark and medicine.
Thinking green of the infecting fern
where you may crouch and not be known,
lodging your feet for good amid the stalks.
A bower is a dwelling place or once it was
a cage for pent-up singing birds.
Look down to see the warp and weft of root.
All the world is in these clutches.
Look up to clock the fern’s drab underneath
blotched with spores you mustn’t breathe.
Breathe in deep. There’s nowhere else to live.
Midsummer, Tobago by Derek Walcott
Broad sun-stoned beaches.
A green river.
scorched yellow palms
from the summer-sleeping house
drowsing through August.
Days I have held,
days I have lost,
days that outgrow, like daughters,
my harbouring arms.
Moonlight, Summer Moonlight by Emily Jane Brontë
’Tis moonlight, summer moonlight,
All soft and still and fair;
The solemn hour of midnight
Breathes sweet thoughts everywhere,
But most where trees are sending
Their breezy boughs on high,
Or stooping low are lending
A shelter from the sky.
And there in those wild bowers
A lovely form is laid;
Green grass and dew-steeped flowers
Wave gently round her head.
Best known for her haunting classic novel Wuthering Heights, Emily Jane Brontë also published poetry under the pseudonym Ellis Bell.
June by John Updike
The sun is rich
And gladly pays
In golden hours,
And long green weeks
That never end.
The time Is ours to spend.
There’s Little League,
Hopscotch, the creek,
And, after supper,
The live-long light
Is like a dream,
and freckles come
Like flies to cream.
Love Song, 31st July by Richard Osmond
Today the queen ant and her lovers
took their nuptial flight, scattering
upwards like a handful of cracked
black peppercorns thrown in the face
of a bear, the bear being in this case
a simile for the population of Lewisham
and Hither Green.
There is an increasingly common assertion
online that the winged of every ant nest
in Britain take off on the same bright
morning. This says less about ants than it does
about the state of media in which we place
ourselves: connected enough to hear
and repeat all claims and verify some,
yet prone to confirmation bias
owing to algorithms which favour
new expressions of that which we already
hold to be true.
Myth moves in step with commerce.
When merchant ships arrived
once per season from the Orient
they brought silk and saffron and stories
of dog-sized ants which mined gold
and took to the sky only to defend
their treasure from camel-riding
thieves. Now we receive the exotic
via fibre optics as a stream of
high frequency trades.
My love, I can’t speak with authority
on commodity futures, the wonders of the east
and the behaviour of insects in Liverpool
and Tunbridge Wells or any city
outside my directly observable reality,
but it’s flying ant day in my heart
if nowhere else.
This poem features in Richard Osmond's Costa Poetry Award shortlisted debut collection, Useful Verses.
Apples by Laurie Lee
Behold the apples’ rounded worlds:
juice-green of July rain,
the black polestar of flowers,
the rind mapped with its crimson stain.
The russet, crab and cottage red
burn to the sun’s hot brass,
then drop like sweat from every branch
and bubble in the grass.
They lie as wanton as they fall,
and where they fall and break,
the stallion clamps his crunching jaws,
the starling stabs his beak.
In each plump gourd the cidery bite
of boys’ teeth tears the skin;
the waltzing wasp consumes his share,
the bent worm enters in.
I, with as easy hunger, take
entire my season’s dole;
welcome the ripe, the sweet, the sour,
the hollow and the whole.
Warm Summer Sun by Mark Twain
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's classic book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is available as a hardback Macmillan Collector's Library edition.
A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky by Lewis Carroll
A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July —
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear —
Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?
Fireflies in the Garden by Robert Frost
Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.