It ends in a searing cry, a defiant question against the imposed patterns of patriarchal society, patterns which allow for the senseless destruction of war, but which in Lowell's time did not allow a woman a sense of pride in her own femininity. At the same time there is a comparison with the patterns of nature, not only of a winter that will follow summer but of the daffodils and swills which are free to sway with the breeze and feel the beatitude of nature, from which the brocade insulates the "softness of a woman".
The narrator is a society woman of Lowell's time, a perfect combination of fashion and propriety expected of women in those times: "In my stiff, brocaded gown./With my powdered hair and jewelled fan, I too am a rare/Pattern". Her own description of her clothes is significant, her hair powdered to perfection and jewelled fan festoon the conventional female image of a decorative appendage, and she is well aware of it.
And it does not stop there. ...
Nor is it lost on the wearer who protests against the gown exclaiming, "What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!/I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground", almost a clarion call for freedom from the repressions and inhibitions imposed upon a woman.
The language in the poem is easily understood, a condition of Imagism which encouraged "common speech". Additionally, the word usage is not merely decorative: each word makes a distinct, concentrated sense and adds to the meaning of the poem as a whole, another requirement of the Imagist movement which was opposed to the grandiloquence of Victorian poetry. When the narrator describes her inconsolable grief, there is not a word less and not one extra in the lines, "And I weep;/For the lime-tree is in blossom/And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom". One can almost see Nature mourning her loss with her, and the relentlessness of her grief hits home with: "The dripping never stops".
The choice of words gets syrupy in places, almost reminiscent of a vapid romance novel, " A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover,/Till he caught me in the shade, /And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me,/ Aching, melting, unafraid". It is as if the narrator's inherently sensual nature having broken its bonds has taken recourse to the most hackneyed of all phrases to leave no doubt in her own mind, and that of her invisible audience, about the direction her thoughts are taking her.
The distinctly erotic imagery that is evoked by such a choice of words is a kind of catharsis for the womanhood bound in hooks, lace, whalebone and brocade, a feministic avowal of the right of a woman to the abandonment of nature, free from externally