Summary and Analysis: Calamus
When I Heard at the Close of the Day
The poet says that he was not happy on the day he heard that his work was praised "in the capitol," nor was he pleased when "his plans were accomplish'd." But he felt especially happy when he rose in the morning in perfect health, wandered over the beach, saw the sun and the cool waters, and remembered that his "lover was on his way." And on the night when "the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover in the cool night," he was happy.
This is really a sonnet in free verse. Although a true sonnet has fourteen lines and is usually in iambic pentameter, the lyricism here is sonnet-like. The scenes of "the full moon" and "the beach" are fine examples of synonymous descriptions. The poet builds up the details which are accentuated in the depiction of personal relationships and love. The movement of the verse is rhythmic. The reference to the "plaudits in the capitol" is possibly based on the favorable review of Leaves of Grass in the National Intelligencer (Washington, D.C., February 18, 1856).