The poems Summer Night, Riverside by Sara Teasdale and Hard Night by Christian Wiman both focus on the feelings that a night brings. Similarly, the two poems both achieve this by using plenty of imagistic details. However, while Summer Night, Riverside awakens positive and peaceful feelings on the reader, Hard Night aims to build a more pessimistic, melancholic and dreary atmosphere.
The positive feelings that Summer Night, Riverside gives mostly arise from the sub-subject of love that is experienced with a lover in the night. Summer itself has a positive connotation that is enriched by successful use of imagery by the poet. Use of contrasting words soft and wild in the line “In the wild soft summer darkness” takes the depressive sense of darkness and replaces it with a peaceful feeling. Expression of this darkness as “black satin” as the clothes worn by the Hudson river in the following lines also strengthens the idea of a soft and peaceful atmosphere while also adding some glory to it. Here, the river is personified and makes the poem sound and even feel more vivid and lively. The feeling of love is not directly given but is sprinkled between the lines; the more dominant subject in the poem is the description of the feelings and sights of the summer night. In the lines “And down the hill a tree that dripped with bloom/Sheltered us,/While your kisses and the flowers,/Falling, falling,/Tangled in my hair..”, it is hard for the reader to distinguish whether the poet is talking about the sense given by a lover or one given by the beauties of the night.
In contrast to this poem in which the optimistic and positive mood of a summer night is expressed, Hard Night has no hint of such positive elements. Instead, it expresses negative feelings about the night. By the use of words “difficult”, “hard” and dark a depressive image of night is formed in the readers mind. While the night was something joyous in the first poem, “Hard Night” considers it as something that is hard to bear. Most clues that indicate the poem carries no positive feelings appear in the third stanza. The last two lines “Night like a fling of crows/ disperses and is gone.” resembles the continuation and passing of the night to a fling of crows dispersing and leaving. The sense of separation conveyed through this likening further depresses the reader. The last stanza mystifies the gloomy mood of night with the poet’s claim of not being able to distinguish among a field, a sky and a tree.
The use of imagery in these two poems is the main element that provides the separation between the feelings delivered by them.