“The Summer Day” is a short poem by the American poet Mary Oliver, first published in her collection House of Light (1990). Its speaker wonders about the creation of the world and then has a close, marvelous encounter with a grasshopper. This prompts the speaker to meditate on mortality, human beings' relationship with nature, and the preciousness of life. One of Oliver's most famous poems, "The Summer Day" ultimately challenges readers to find and fulfill their life's purpose.
Who made the ...
... made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I ...
... and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts ...
... and floats away.
I don't know ...
... doing all day.
Tell me, what ...
... and too soon?
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
The Poet Remembered — The poet Billy Collins reflects on Oliver's poetic legacy.
The Poem Out Loud — Listen to Mary Oliver read "The Summer Day."
Oliver's Life and Work — A brief biography of Oliver from the Poetry Foundation.
What Is Nature Poetry? — A short entry on nature poetry by the poet Edward Hirsch.
Listening to the World — A rare interview with Oliver from the On Being Project.
1Who made the world?
2Who made the swan, and the black bear?
3Who made the grasshopper?
4This grasshopper, I mean—
5the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
6the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
7who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
8who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
9Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
10Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
11I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
12I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
13into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
14how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
15which is what I have been doing all day.
16Tell me, what else should I have done?
17Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
18Tell me, what is it you plan to do
19with your one wild and precious life?