by Mark Twain
Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night.
The first four lines of this poem give us a pleasant setting. The sun is warm and shining. The wind is a warm gentle breeze.
Line five tells us that more is going on. Green sod… above? Oh no. He asks it to “lie light” like you would hope a blanket might lie lightly on your body during the night time. Twain concludes by telling us, though not directly, that someone important to him is gone. He continues to be gentle, though, saying only good night rather than good bye.
The poem uses nature elements to present a loving father lying a child down for bed. However, the bed is the earth and the sleep is forever. It’s simple and it’s heart-breaking.
These words were a eulogy for Olivia Susan Clemens, Mark Twain’s twenty-four year old daughter, and they are on her headstone. Twain’s poem was adapted from the poem Annette by Robert Richardson. The words are altered slightly but are similar enough that Richardson is actually credited on the headstone for them.
For those of you familiar with the rest of my blog, you might remember that this poem was featured in the episode of Quantum Leap titled “Goodnight, Dear Heart.”