Back to: West Bengal Board Class 8th English Guide and Notes
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‘Summer Friends’ is a poem written by Mary Ann Lamb. It is a beautiful short poem that elaborates on who a good friend is using birds as an analogy. This is thus a poem that makes readers contemplate over what a friendship means.
About the Poet:
Mary Ann Lamb (1764-1847) was an eminent English writer. An interesting fact to note is that Charles lamb, an English writer too, is none other than her own brother. The two have even collaborated and written literary pieces. Famous works of hers include ‘Tales from Shakespeare’, written along with her brother, ‘Poems for Children’ and ‘Mrs. Leicester’s School’.
The theme of this poem revolves around the idea of friendship. Using birds as a comparison, the poet brings out the nature of friendships that can be found in real life, how appearances of them can indeed be deceptive.
This short, lyric poem is divided into two stanzas consisting of eight lines each. It follows the simple rhyme scheme of abab cdcd and so on and so forth.
The Swallow is a summer bird; He in our chimneys, when the weather Is fine and warm, may then be heard Chirping his notes for weeks together. Come there but one cold wintry day, Away will fly our guest the Swallow: And much like him we find the way Which many a gay young friend will follow.
The poem begins with a description of the bird Swallow. The persona employs an almost conversational tone as he details over how the Swallow is a bird of summer, one that does not fail to visit when the weather is pleasant. The Swallow sits then people’s chimneys, chirping happily for weeks to come. However, once winter arrives, the Swallow whom the persona refers to as a ‘guest’, thus giving them a considerable importance in their life, will be nowhere to be found. The persona then compares this behaviour of the bird with people in real life, how some of these fair-weather friends desert people in times of need.
In dreary days of snow and frost Closer to Man will cling the Sparrow: Old friends, although in life we're crost, Their hearts to us will never narrow. Give me the bird-give me the friend- Will sing in frost-will love in sorrow- Whate'er mischance to-day may send, Will greet me with his sight to-morrow.
In this stanza, the persona provides a contrast to kind of friend the Swallow turned out to be. Here, the name of the bird Sparrow is invoked to portray how a good friend is and what a good friend ought to do. Here, the Sparrow is shown as Man’s friend, how they do not leave even in the harsh winter. The image of winter here is used to symbolize the hardships in life one faces. Here, the Sparrow represents those friends who stick with people come rain or shine. These friends, like the Sparrow, do not let their love dwindle during hard times, always there to offer their support in times of need.
This is thus a poem that has a deep underlying meaning to it. It portrays who a false friend is and who a good friend is through a light poem. It is almost cautionary in nature, who is seems to warn readers and beware of fake friendships.