September Song

September Song

By Geoffrey Hill

Undesirable you may have been, untouchable
you were not. Not forgotten
or passed over at the proper time.

As estimated, you died. Things marched,
sufficient, to that end.
Just so much Zyklon and leather, patented
terror, so many routine cries.

(I have made
an elegy for myself it
is true)

September fattens on vines. Roses
flake from the wall. The smoke
of harmless fires drifts to my eyes.

This is plenty. This is more than enough.

Summary of September Song

  • Popularity of “September Song”: Published in 1968 in King Long, “September Song” is a short allegorical poem. Hill taps into the sufferings during the Holocaust, with a particular focus on the life and death of a child. He wrote this poem keeping in mind the dark side of human nature that becomes the reason for the disturbance. The poem has won popularity because it has a gravitational pull of taking people back in time when the world witnessed brutalities and injustice.
  • “September Song” As a Representative of Loss: This poem is an elegy on a late Jewish child killed mercilessly in the Nazi camp. It begins when the speaker calls the child an undesirable and untouchable figure. It seems that the state does not want to have that child. Therefore, there was nothing that could stop the forces from smashing the happiness of that little soul. They not only destroyed his world but also pushed him into a world of death and horror, where he eventually lost his life. Although they killed the child, the world did not forget the brutality. In the second stanza, the speaker alludes to how the Nazis planned and schemed to murder people using lethal weapons. The writer tries to feel the pain of that late child who died while the speaker survived. He ends this sad poem with a heart-wrenching note that he can only present the horrors the world witnessed in the past; he possesses no courage to change them.
  • Major Themes in “September Song”: Death, the dark side of humanity, warfare, and sadness are the poem’s major themes. This poem accounts for the deaths of those brutally killed in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Keeping a small child in the poem’s center, the speaker contemplates how Nazis exercised their power and brought ruination to the earth. Throughout the poem, the speaker reminds us of the genocide during the Second World War. Although the world has moved on, the murder, sacrifices, and brutalities of the Nazis have stayed in the memories of the surviving victims. In other words, the poet says that some brutal murders fail to go down the memory lane of history without refreshing the horrors. When someone shuffles the pages of history, the cries of the lost souls disturb one’s peace of mind.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in September Song

literary devices are tools that allow poets to fill meanings into their poetic output. In fact, with the help of these devices, the poets convey their ideas, feelings, and emotions to the readers. Geoffrey Hill, too, has employed some literary devices in this poem, whose analysis is as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /e/ in “Undesirable you may have been, untouchable” and the sound of /o/ in “terror, so many routine cries.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession, such as the sound of /f/ in “flake from the wall.”
  3. Allusion: Allusion is a belief and an indirect reference of a person, place, thing or idea of a historical, cultural, political, or literary significance. The poem alludes to the brutalities Jewish faced at the hands of Nazis.
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /r/ in “September fattens on vines. Roses” and the sound of /t/ in “This is plenty. This is more than enough..”
  5. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

“September fattens on vines. Roses
flake from the wall. The smoke
of harmless fires drifts to my eyes.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Geoffrey used imagery in this poem, such as; “September fattens on vines. Roses” and “This is plenty. This is more than enough.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. The poet used warfare and misuse of power as extended metaphors in the poem to use how the wrong use of power brings ruination to earth.
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols such as loss, remembrance, terror, death, and imprisonment.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in September Song

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: The poem shows descriptive diction having rhetorical devices, symbolism, and impressive images.
  2. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  3. Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here only the second stanza is a quatrain.
  4. Tercet: A tercet is a three-lined stanza borrowed from Biblical Hebrew poetry. Here, the first, third, and fourth stanzas are tercets.
  5. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are four stanzas in this poem, with each comprising a different number of verses.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote during the citation of memories associated with September.

“September fattens on vines. Roses
flake from the wall. The smoke
of harmless fires drifts to my eyes.”