And off we go! This line repeats the title, setting up a lilting or playful rhythm. Of course this line is simply giving us information, but it also opens the door to imagination. Here, we can start thinking about what the place where the sidewalk ends might be like. Is it the last little stretch before the houses and yards get too big to be connected by the sidewalk? Or is it the place where the sidewalk ends and turns into someone's yard? Or is it something even more imaginative than that?
If you're reading this in print form (which we hope you are, there's nothing like holding a Shel Silverstein book in hand), there's a big hint about what this place is supposed to be right on the front cover of Where the Sidewalk Ends.
The illustration shows two kids and a dog hanging off the edge of a strip of sidewalk, which stops abruptly in midair.
Judging from that image, the place where the sidewalk ends is most likely a mystical place. It's beyond anywhere we've ever been, away from the city and into the furthest reaches of the imagination. And going there requires a leap of faith.
And before the street begins,
This line gives us more information about the place where the sidewalk ends, but in a whimsical way. Instead of saying that the street ends at the same place the sidewalk ends, the speaker flips it around, saying that the street begins there.
This makes us think in terms of time, not just space. If the place is before the street begins, could it be that this land comes from a long, long time ago, when the world was a very different place indeed, and things like moon-birds flew free? Perhaps.
Yet we can also think about a park, or a farm—anywhere that's ruled by dirt paths and grass, rather than pavement and bricks. There are no streets or sidewalks there, somehow making lots of things suddenly seem more possible.
And there the grass grows soft and white, And there the sun burns crimson bright,
Okay, place, let's dig in. These two lines give us some physical details about the place where the sidewalk ends, but they don't remind us of any place we know of, except for maybe in our deepest dreams.
The grass grows, left alone, we can guess, by pesky lawn mowers. It's not green and itchy like normal grass, but soft and white (like snow, but warm). We bet it's the best possible surface imaginable on which to run, play, and roll around. Awesome.
Also, the sun isn't yellow or gold, but crimson bright. Crimson is a deep shade of red. At first, it might seem pretty creepy to have a red sun, but then again, sometimes the sun turns crimson when it sets, and all the clouds turn glorious shades of purple and pink. So having a crimson sun might mean that the world always looks like a perfect, glowing sunset scene. It's never too hot, never too cold, and the clouds reflect brilliant colors. Again, awesome.
When we read these lines, we start to realize that we're probably not talking about an actual, real place. This isn't someone's front yard, or the outskirts of town.
The details about this world show us that it's nothing that could actually be found in the real world. That means it's probably a metaphor for something.
We'll track this metaphor line by line as we go along, but we can already guess that the place where the sidewalk ends just might represent the wonderful world we can create without imaginations. After all, the speaker himself must be imagining this one.
Also, check out the alliteration in "grass grows," and the rhyme at the end of the lines. For more on the effects of these, check out "Sound Check."
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight To cool in the peppermint wind.
Now we get a better idea of the atmosphere in this mysterious but awesome place.
First, there's a new kind of bird we've never heard about, a moon-bird, and he's hanging out, just resting after a long flight – maybe even all the way from the moon?
Oh, and before we forget: did you notice that line 5 is the last of four lines that start with "And there"? Repeating the same phrase at the beginning of a line is a tool called anaphora, and poets use it to add emphasis. In this case, Shmoop thinks our poet might have repeated this phrase to emphasize just how awesome this place where the sidewalk ends is. He lists one thing after another, and they all sound spectacular.
It's also worth noting that each line in our anaphora ends in the same rhyme – "white," "bright," and "flight." There's clearly some kind of rhyme scheme going on here, but we haven't quite figured out the pattern yet.
Okay, now back to that moon-bird. He's not just taking your average rest. The wind that bore him on his flight isn't just normal wind – it's peppermint! Other than being a really fun word to read aloud, peppermint might possibly be the best flavor imaginable for wind, if wind could carry flavors.
Imagine breathing in a slight taste of peppermint every time you took a breath. Your breath would never get stale, and you'd always be refreshed with sharp sweetness.
This world is really starting to sound awesome now, but feel free to keep going and fill in the gaps of what you would like to see there. After this stanza, anything seems possible in the place where the sidewalk ends.