Poem Summary ‘‘Moon Rondeau’’

The first line of the poem ‘‘Moon Rondeau’’ begins with quotation marks, indicating that the voice that is speaking is not that of the poet. There seem to be two people discussing their future, a future of love. Love is depicted as a door that they will open. This poetic device, in which one thing is likened to another thing, is a metaphor. (If the poet had said that love is like a door, the device would have been called a simile.) It is a declarative sentence that requires action. Sandburg suggests that love is something that is done, not passively possessed. It is not clear who the lovers are or whether they are old or young, married or single, simply that they agree to love one another. Line 2 explains that they are standing outside under the moon and are expressing their love for each other. In literature, the moon is often a symbol of love, and many oaths are made to it. The moon is often present in the lines of Shakespeare’s lovers; for example, there is a lively exchange regarding the moon between Kate and Petruchioin The Taming of the Shrew, a comedic play about a difficult courtship that ends in true love. Line 3 describes the scene as being evening, and the imagery appeals to the sense of smell: musty leaf mold is mentioned. The first impression, therefore, is of late fall and dying foliage. However, the next two lines give clues that this is not true. These lines reveal that the smell of new roses and beginnings of potatoes abound, brought in by the wind. It is a

Time of beginnings, of new growth, of spring. Leaf mold is used to fertilize plants, and spring is the symbolic season of love. The noted Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson proclaims in ‘‘Locksley Hall’’ that in the spring, a young man’s thoughts are of love. In that poem, the speaker tells of unrequited love while looking up into the night sky. Even in the earliest medieval manuscripts of English literature, the moon and the time of spring are powerful forces in the promotion of love. In Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, the young lovers are subject to the powers of the moon, the season of spring, and the influence of those forces on human actions. It is not clear where Sandburg’s poem takes place, but because most of his poetry is written about the Midwest, it must occur somewhere in the American heartland, where the smell of leaf mold would be familiar during spring planting.

Stanza 2

The first line of stanza 2 gives an indication of what time of night the poem takes place. It is late, probably after midnight, a magical time when dreaming and wishing are active and the cares and practicalities of the day are over. It is a romantic time, a time when emotions are keen and thoughts of love are evoked. The second line describes the couple looking longingly at the moon for hours as its mystical powers overtake them. They begin to see shapes in it as they stare dreamily, like a child watching clouds turning into puppies, balloons, or monsters. They see it as a silvery button; one says that it is a copper coin. A lover’ game begins, and creative minds, inspired by the moment, call out more names. They think of a wafer (a thin, round piece of metal) made of bronze. The next offering, in the third line of the stanza, is that of a gold plaque, an award, again pleasing and inspirational. Next, an even higher honor is imagined: a royal crown. However, it is one that has disappeared, which may suggest wistfulness or, on a more literal level, may suggest that dawn is near. In the last line of the stanza, one last submission is offered: the moon is a brassy hat dripping and melting away into a deep watery blue.

Stanza 3

Stanza 3 is again a quotation from the lovers. They declare that the moon belongs to people like them: lovers. To them, it is placed in the night sky only for people in love, and more importantly, it is their personal property. It cannot be claimed by the earth, the sun, or the stars; it exists to revolve around them. There is no one else in the world but them, they think, and everything evolves to please them—thoughts that lovers often believe.

Love

‘‘Moon Rondeau’’ is essentially about love. It is the first word of the poem, and the poem describes two lovers looking at the heavens and dreaming about their future together. The scene is a starry night when the couple is stargazing and declaring their love beneath the moon.

Ambiguity

There is a sense of ambiguity about the lovers in the poem. Are they young orold? Are they new to love or have they been together for a long time? Although they are allowed to speak to the reader, nothing is revealed about them, as if to say that it does not matter; all lovers must fall under a romantic spell beneath the moon.

Travel

In this poem, love is presented as a door that the lovers will open. They will travel throughit to find their destinies together. This night is a beginning. The poem suggests a romantic sense of adventure and excitement at what lies ahead of the two, as they speak of their love.

Nature

Many lovers have pledged their love on an early spring evening beneath the moon. Roses, potatoes, and even the smell of leaf mold describe the evening setting and evoke the natural world. The wind brings a sensory element to the poem with the smells of nature on a moonlit evening.

Imagination

The lovers create lavish, fanciful images of the moon in comparisons meant to delight one another. They have nothing better to do than stay awake all night and watch the moon as it wanes, describing it as a coin, a crown, a button, a dripping hat.

Innocence

Whether the lovers are young or old, there is an innocence about them. They believe that the moon is hung above them simply for them and others who feel love as strongly as they do. They own the world and the heavens, and the rest of people lost without love in the world are merely renters.

Mysticism

Poetry and all forms of literature have used the moon as a mystical force that calls forth love. It exerts a supernatural force over people’s emotions and often makes them behave in ways they might not under the ordinary noonday sun. In the same way, the setting of the evening has a softening effect upon lovers; it is secret and intimate, and it also has an otherworldly effect on the human heart.

Hope

Most of Sandburg’s works are filled with hope, and if there is darkness, there is redemption, or at least a moral. ‘‘Moon Rondeau’’ is no different. The message is conveyed that dreams will be fulfilled and love will prevail. The lovers believe that the world is at their fingertips.

Rural Life

This poem depicts a setting of rural life, perhaps on a farm. Leaf mold is used in spring planting to mulch and fertilize new crops, but within the poem its main purpose is to evoke a memory by its smell. Roses and potatoes are beginning to grow, most likely in a nearby field. The image of the moon is always enhanced by an evening sky free of city lights. Its details are described here in simple, though fanciful terms, also indicative of a rural life.




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