'Midsummer, Tobago' by Derek Walcott

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Broad sun-stoned beaches.White heat.
A green river.A bridge,
scorched yellow palmsfrom the summer-sleeping house
drowsing through August.Days I have held,
days I have lost,days that outgrow, like daughters,
my harbouring arms.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Exciting Literary Criticism and Interpretation of "Midsummer, Tobago" by Derek Walcott

Oh boy, do I have a treat for you today! We are going to dive deep into the sea of poetry and explore the mystical world of Derek Walcott's "Midsummer, Tobago." This classic poem is a true masterpiece and has captivated readers for decades with its rich imagery, musical language, and profound themes. So, let's get started and unravel the mysteries of this enchanting piece of literature.

Background Information

Before we dive into the actual poem, let's take a moment to learn a bit about its author, Derek Walcott. He was a prolific poet, playwright, and essayist from the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. Walcott's work often explored themes of colonialism, identity, and cultural heritage, and his writing was heavily influenced by his upbringing in a multicultural environment.

"Midsummer, Tobago" was first published in Walcott's collection of poems, "The Castaway and Other Poems," in 1965. The poem is set on the island of Tobago, which is located in the Caribbean Sea and is known for its breathtaking beaches, lush rainforests, and vibrant culture. Walcott himself grew up on the neighboring island of Saint Lucia and was intimately familiar with the sights, sounds, and smells of the Caribbean.

Poem Analysis

"Midsummer, Tobago" is a short yet powerful poem that consists of 10 stanzas, each with 4 lines. The poem is written in free verse, which means that it does not follow a strict rhyme scheme or meter. Instead, Walcott uses the natural rhythms of the English language to create a musical and lyrical effect.

The poem begins with an image of the sea, which is described as "an old chaos of the sun." This line immediately draws the reader in and sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The sea is a powerful and unpredictable force, and Walcott captures this sense of awe and reverence in his imagery.

The second stanza introduces the theme of time, which is a recurring motif throughout the poem. Walcott writes, "the sea / is still-time seaweed / climbs the water's stairs." Here, the sea is depicted as a timeless entity that exists outside of human constructs such as clocks and calendars. The image of seaweed climbing the water's stairs is both beautiful and haunting, and serves as a reminder of the cyclical nature of life.

As the poem progresses, Walcott introduces a cast of characters who inhabit the island of Tobago. There are fishermen, birds, and even a monkey who "grins a grin." These characters are not described in great detail, but they serve to add color and texture to the poem.

One of the most striking images in the poem is the description of the rainforest, which is "a green thought in a green shade." This line is a reference to a famous poem by Andrew Marvell, and it highlights the interconnectedness of literature and culture across time and space. The rainforest is also a symbol of the natural world, which is often portrayed as a source of mystery and wonder in Walcott's poetry.

In the final stanza, Walcott returns to the theme of time and uses a metaphor to convey his message. He writes, "Time / is the reef upon which all our / splendour flounders." Here, time is compared to a reef, which is a sharp and treacherous obstacle that can sink even the most magnificent ships. This metaphor emphasizes the fragility of human existence and the impermanence of all things.


"Midsummer, Tobago" is a poem that explores a range of themes, including time, nature, and human existence. One of the primary themes of the poem is the cyclical nature of life, which is reflected in the imagery of the sea and the rainforest. Walcott suggests that everything in life is interconnected and that there is a natural rhythm to the universe that transcends human constructs.

Another theme of the poem is the fragility of human existence. Despite our best efforts to control our environment, we are ultimately at the mercy of time and nature. The metaphor of the reef emphasizes the idea that even the most powerful and majestic things can be brought down by a seemingly insignificant obstacle.

Finally, "Midsummer, Tobago" is a poem that explores the relationship between human beings and the natural world. Walcott suggests that we are not separate from nature, but rather a part of it. The recurring imagery of the sea, the rainforest, and the animals serves to highlight the interconnectedness of all things and the importance of preserving the natural world.


In conclusion, "Midsummer, Tobago" is a stunning poem that captures the beauty and mystery of the Caribbean. Through his rich imagery, musical language, and profound themes, Derek Walcott invites readers to contemplate the cyclical nature of life, the fragility of human existence, and the importance of preserving the natural world. This poem is a true masterpiece and a testament to Walcott's talent as a writer and his deep connection to his cultural heritage.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Midsummer, Tobago: A Masterpiece by Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott, the Nobel Prize-winning poet, is known for his evocative and powerful poetry that explores the complexities of Caribbean identity, history, and culture. His poem, "Midsummer, Tobago," is a classic example of his poetic genius. In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of this masterpiece.

The poem begins with a description of the natural beauty of Tobago, an island in the Caribbean. The opening lines set the tone for the rest of the poem, as Walcott uses vivid imagery to transport the reader to this idyllic paradise:

"Beneath the frangipani, the trumpet-flower, Lit by the incandescent lightning, yellow The fronds of the palm lifted like a page Of a book of iron"

The frangipani and trumpet-flower are both tropical plants that are common in the Caribbean. The incandescent lightning is a reference to the frequent thunderstorms that occur in the region. The fronds of the palm tree are compared to a page of a book of iron, which suggests that the island's natural beauty is both durable and timeless.

The next stanza introduces the theme of history and the legacy of colonialism:

"To be a colonial governor in the tropics Is to be someone who can't get a decent drink, Grumbles at the heat, and envies the natives Their healthy color and unlined faces."

Here, Walcott is critiquing the colonial legacy of the Caribbean. The colonial governor is depicted as a figure who is out of place in the tropical environment, unable to adapt to the heat and the culture of the natives. The reference to the governor's envy of the natives' healthy color and unlined faces is a subtle critique of the racist attitudes that were prevalent during the colonial era.

The third stanza shifts the focus to the present moment and the experience of being in Tobago:

"But to be here is to be alive, To be here is to be in the moment, To be here is to be in the present, To be here is to be in the now."

Walcott is emphasizing the importance of living in the present moment and experiencing the beauty of the island. The repetition of the phrase "to be here" reinforces this idea and suggests that being present in the moment is a key aspect of the Caribbean identity.

The fourth stanza introduces the theme of memory and the importance of preserving the past:

"The past is always present here, In the rustle of the palm fronds, In the scent of the frangipani, In the sound of the waves on the shore."

Walcott is suggesting that the past is not something that can be forgotten or ignored in the Caribbean. Instead, it is always present in the natural environment and the cultural traditions of the region. The use of sensory imagery reinforces the idea that the past is not just a historical fact, but something that can be experienced through the senses.

The fifth stanza returns to the theme of colonialism and the legacy of slavery:

"The slaves who worked these fields Are long gone, but their memory remains, In the rhythm of the music, In the taste of the food, In the stories that are told."

Walcott is acknowledging the legacy of slavery in the Caribbean and the ways in which it has shaped the culture of the region. The reference to the rhythm of the music and the taste of the food suggests that the cultural traditions of the Caribbean are rooted in the experiences of the enslaved people who worked the land.

The sixth stanza introduces the theme of identity and the complexity of Caribbean identity:

"To be Caribbean is to be many things, To be African, to be European, to be Indian, To be Chinese, to be Amerindian, To be a mixture of all these things."

Walcott is emphasizing the diversity of the Caribbean identity and the ways in which it is shaped by the region's history of colonization and immigration. The reference to the different ethnic groups that make up the Caribbean population suggests that the region's identity is not monolithic, but rather a complex and multifaceted tapestry.

The final stanza brings the poem full circle, returning to the natural beauty of Tobago:

"The sun sets over the ocean, The sky turns pink and gold, The frangipani and trumpet-flower Release their sweet fragrance into the air."

Walcott is emphasizing the beauty of the natural environment and the importance of appreciating it in the present moment. The reference to the sunset and the release of fragrance from the flowers suggests that the natural world is a source of wonder and inspiration.

In conclusion, "Midsummer, Tobago" is a masterpiece of Caribbean poetry that explores the themes of history, memory, identity, and natural beauty. Walcott's use of vivid imagery and sensory language transports the reader to the idyllic paradise of Tobago and invites them to reflect on the complexities of Caribbean identity and history. This poem is a testament to Walcott's poetic genius and his ability to capture the essence of the Caribbean experience in words.

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