'The September Gale' by Oliver Wendell Holmes

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I'M not a chicken; I have seen
Full many a chill September,
And though I was a youngster then,
That gale I well remember;
The day before, my kite-string snapped,
And I, my kite pursuing,
The wind whisked off my palm-leaf hat;
For me two storms were brewing!

It came as quarrels sometimes do,
When married folks get clashing;
There was a heavy sigh or two,
Before the fire was flashing,
A little stir among the clouds,
Before they rent asunder,--
A little rocking of the trees,
And then came on the thunder.

Lord! how the ponds and rivers boiled!
They seemed like bursting craters!
And oaks lay scattered on the ground
As if they were p'taters
And all above was in a howl,
And all below a clatter,
The earth was like a frying-pan,
Or some such hissing matter.

It chanced to be our washing-day,
And all our things were drying;
The storm came roaring through the lines,
And set them all a flying;
I saw the shirts and petticoats
Go riding off like witches;
I lost, ah! bitterly I wept,--
I lost my Sunday breeches!

I saw them straddling through the air,
Alas! too late to win them;
I saw them chase the clouds, as if
The devil had been in them;
They were my darlings and my pride,
My boyhood's only riches,--
"Farewell, farewell," I faintly cried,--
"My breeches! O my breeches!"

That night I saw them in my dreams,
How changed from what I knew them!
The dews had steeped their faded threads,
The winds had whistled through them!
I saw the wide and ghastly rents
Where demon claws had torn them;
A hole was in their amplest part,
As if an imp had worn them.

I have had many happy years,
And tailors kind and clever,
But those young pantaloons have gone
Forever and forever!
And not till fate has cut the last
Of all my earthly stitches,
This aching heart shall cease to mourn
My loved, my long-lost breeches!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Analysis of "The September Gale" by Oliver Wendell Holmes

"The September Gale" is a poem written by Oliver Wendell Holmes that captures the imagination of its readers with a vivid description of a storm. The poem is rich in imagery and figurative language, and it is easy to visualize the tumultuous events described in the poem. The poem was written in 1856, and it is considered one of the great works of American literature. The poem is a perfect example of Holmes's ability to use language to convey complex emotions and ideas.

Form and Structure

The poem is a ballad that consists of five stanzas, each with eight lines. The poem has a simple rhyme scheme of ABABCCDD. The poem is divided into two parts; the first four stanzas describe the storm, while the last stanza presents the aftermath of the storm. The structure of the poem is simple and straightforward, and it allows the reader to focus on the content.


The primary theme of the poem is the power of nature. The poem describes the storm as a powerful force that is beyond human control. The wind and the waves are anthropomorphized, and they are portrayed as violent and destructive. The poem also touches on the theme of mortality. The storm is a reminder of the fragility of human life, and it is a symbol of the inevitability of death.


The imagery in the poem is vivid and powerful. The poem begins with a description of the calm before the storm:

The forest leaves were red and gold, The hazy sky was blue; The river, like a wanderer old, Crept seaward silently, The sun was set, the moon was high, And all the world was still, Save where the homeward-wandering eye Gigantic shadows fill.

The use of color imagery in the first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The red and gold leaves and the blue sky create a sense of serenity and peace. The river is described as a "wanderer old," which adds to the peaceful atmosphere. However, the tranquility is disrupted by the "homeward-wandering eye" and "gigantic shadows." The use of personification in these lines creates a sense of foreboding and anticipation.

The storm is described in vivid detail in the second and third stanzas:

And lo! the great Wind! a spirit free, Swept down in its anger to the sea; And the waves arose in awesome might, As the Wind rushed on in its wild delight.

The use of personification in these lines creates a sense of chaos and disorder. The wind is described as a "spirit free," which adds to the sense of power and unpredictability. The waves are anthropomorphized, and they are portrayed as rising in "awesome might." The use of onomatopoeia in the line "As the Wind rushed on in its wild delight" creates a sense of urgency and excitement.

The fourth stanza describes the aftermath of the storm:

The morning sun shone bright and fair, The birds sang sweet and clear; But, oh! the desolation there, The wreck and ruin drear! The forest, stripped of all its pride, Lay prone upon the ground; And where the river smoothed its tide, A barren waste was found.

The contrast between the beauty of the morning and the destruction caused by the storm is striking. The use of alliteration in the line "The wreck and ruin drear!" emphasizes the sense of desolation. The description of the forest as "stripped of all its pride" conveys a sense of loss and sadness. The barren waste where the river once flowed is a symbol of the destructive power of the storm.

Figurative Language

The poem is rich in figurative language. The use of personification, simile, and metaphor creates a sense of drama and excitement. The wind is described as a "spirit free," and the waves are anthropomorphized. The use of simile in the line "Like a battle-flag in air" creates a vivid image of the waves. The use of metaphor in the line "A giant's club it seemed to be" creates a sense of the power of the wind.


"The September Gale" is a captivating poem that captures the imagination of its readers. The vivid imagery and figurative language create a sense of drama and excitement. The poem is a reminder of the power of nature and the fragility of human life. The poem is a testament to Oliver Wendell Holmes's ability to use language to convey complex emotions and ideas. It is a masterpiece of American literature.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The September Gale: A Masterpiece of Poetry by Oliver Wendell Holmes

The September Gale is a classic poem written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, an American physician, poet, and essayist. This poem is a masterpiece of poetry that captures the essence of the natural world and the power of the elements. It is a beautiful and evocative work that has stood the test of time and continues to inspire readers today.

The poem begins with a description of a stormy September day, with the wind blowing fiercely and the waves crashing against the shore. The speaker describes the scene in vivid detail, using powerful imagery to convey the intensity of the storm. He writes, "The wind is tossing the leaves, / The waves are tossing the sea; / As if with an angry spirit / Had descended on you and me."

The use of personification in these lines is particularly effective, as it gives the storm a sense of agency and intention. The wind and waves are not just natural phenomena, but rather they are portrayed as active participants in the scene, as if they are deliberately lashing out at the speaker and those around him.

As the poem progresses, the speaker reflects on the power of the storm and the way it affects the natural world. He writes, "The trees are stripped of their leaves, / The flowers are dead in the field; / And the waves, with their ceaseless turmoil, / Have shattered the rocks they concealed."

Here, the speaker is drawing attention to the destructive force of the storm, which has stripped the trees of their leaves and destroyed the flowers in the field. The waves, too, have had a profound impact, as they have shattered the rocks that were previously hidden beneath the surface of the water. This imagery is both beautiful and haunting, as it captures the raw power of nature and the way it can transform the landscape in an instant.

Despite the destructive force of the storm, however, the speaker also finds beauty in its intensity. He writes, "But the storm has a beauty that's rare, / And its power is grand to behold; / For it shows us the might of the elements, / And the strength of the brave and the bold."

Here, the speaker is acknowledging that while the storm may be destructive, it is also awe-inspiring in its power and beauty. He sees the storm as a reminder of the strength and resilience of the natural world, and of the courage and determination of those who face it head-on.

Throughout the poem, Holmes uses a variety of poetic techniques to create a sense of rhythm and flow. He employs alliteration, assonance, and rhyme to create a musical quality to the poem, which adds to its overall impact. For example, in the lines "The wind is tossing the leaves, / The waves are tossing the sea," the repetition of the "s" sound creates a sense of movement and energy, which mirrors the action of the storm.

Holmes also uses repetition to great effect, particularly in the final stanza of the poem. He writes, "And the gale goes on, and we hear / The voice of its terrible might, / As it shrieks with a sound that is fearful, / And darkens the face of the night."

This repetition of the phrase "and" at the beginning of each line creates a sense of urgency and momentum, as if the storm is building in intensity with each passing moment. The use of the word "terrible" to describe the storm's voice also adds to the sense of fear and awe that the speaker feels in the face of its power.

In conclusion, The September Gale is a masterful work of poetry that captures the beauty and power of the natural world. Through vivid imagery and powerful language, Holmes creates a sense of awe and wonder in the face of the storm, while also acknowledging its destructive force. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the essence of the human experience, and it continues to inspire readers today with its timeless message of resilience and courage in the face of adversity.

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