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Theme in Yellow

Theme in Yellow


by Carl Sandburg

Lines 6-11 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 6-7

On the last of October
When dusk is fallen

  • That's right folks, the "last of October" is more commonly referred to as… Halloween. Again, poets usually like to build rather than shout their ideas, hence the more poetic reference to the famously spooky day.
  • Notice too that line 6 sounds like something out of a ghost story or fairy tale, "On the night before Christmas...", etc. So the speaker is using the specific sort of language you might hear on that "last of October," which adds to the poem's spooky mood. 
  • Maybe the speaker is also gearing his poem to a younger audience, bearing in mind that Halloween is more for kids than adults. So, using that sort of fairy tale/ghost story kind of language would help capture the attention of the poem's listeners.
  • And of course, "when dusk is fallen" we know things are only going to get even spookier, especially since we're talking about Halloween. 
  • So by the end of line 7, we know Halloween is here and it's nighttime. The only thing left to wonder is what's going to happen to our pumpkin-speaker.

Lines 8-9

Children join hands
And circle round me

  • Again, after dusk has fallen, a bunch of kids gather round the pumpkins, you know, doing the sort of things kids do. 
  • By now we've gotten to the festive part of that "last of October," when all the ghost stories, singing, and harmless shenanigans occur. 
  • We're starting to notice that by line 8, the speaker sounds as if he's focused more on the children enjoying his pumpkin-speaker presence. In other words, it's less about the pumpkins themselves and more about the festivities and the children.
  • And since those kids are "join[ing] hands," we know this is all just harmless fun. No gore or poisoned apples just yet.
  • Since the children "circle" round the pumpkin, we also have a cue here that there's more fun to be had in the coming lines. 
  • And notice that we have more of that first-person voice ("me"), so, although lines 8 and 9 are about the kids and the fun, they're also reminding us that the speaker is the pumpkin. Check out "Symbols and Wordplay" for more on that.
  • By now we can start throwing some ideas around regarding this pumpkin-speaker. Not only does he allow us to see things directly through his (its) eyes, but there's also something magical about this voice too. 
  • Maybe the pumpkin-speaker is himself part of the mysterious Halloween vibe, as if he's been transformed into this non-human, pumpkin-centric voice. 
  • All in all things are playful, imaginative, and a little spooky at this point, which really drives the whole Halloween motif home.

Lines 10-11

Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;

  • And indeed we have more fun in these lines with the kids singing "ghost songs" and "love to the harvest moon."
  • What's a harvest moon, you ask? It's a full moon that happens around the autumnal equinox that's super-bright and historically gave farmers more hours in the day/evening to harvest their crops. It looks like this.
  • But how does the imagery of this harvest moon contribute to the overall mood of the poem? Maybe there's something equally lovely and spooky in that image of a giant orange moon that really captures what the speaker is driving at. 
  • Maybe it's also a perfect symbol for all things Halloween and autumn, one that doesn't have to be scary or evil. 
  • One thing is for sure though: by line 10 the children are gathered round the pumpkins, singing ghost songs and having a blast. 
  • So far we haven't heard anything that's particularly frightening or gory, right? It looks like this Halloween poem is more so a celebration of autumn and all the fun kids get to have.
  • And that inclusion of the word "love" in line 11 also gives us a hint that this poem is less about horror and more about the more beautiful things this time of year has to offer.

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