by Elizabeth Bishop
Change of Season
September is the first month of fall. It's the first word of the poem and proves to be pretty important. The poem is dominated by this feeling of sadness and of general dread—something bad is coming, and this feeling is totally played up with the change of season. It's raining, it's getting dark out early. It's cold. This is a real drear-fest. A lot of literature uses the seasons as symbols—spring for rebirth, summer for the prime of life, fall for decline, and winter for death. If we go by those rules, this poem takes place in the second to worst category. And read closely, while death isn't really at the forefront, there is definitely a sense of foreboding.
- Line 1: Right from the get-go we know that it's a "dark and stormy" night and it's chilly out. Not a particularly cozy feeling at the start.
- Line 2: Bishop isn't going to give us a break. She may as well scream—it's not sunny out and this is not cheery weather! Not only is it dark, but the light is "failing" which makes it sound like such a struggle.
- Line 7: The reference to the equinox reminds us not only that the weather is changing, but that the actual alignment of the planet in its relationship to the sun is as well. It reminds us that there are powerful forces as work at the turn of the season.
- Line 24: Brrrr. They're getting cold. The grandmother is doing chores to fend off the chilly assault, but what's coming is coming and we get a sense that there's nothing anyone can do to stop it.