I'm uncertain about the meaning of shade in the last line of Jean Toomer's "Reapers"

Black reapers with the sound of steel on stones
Are sharpening scythes. I see them place the hones   
In their hip-pockets as a thing that’s done,   
And start their silent swinging, one by one.   
Black horses drive a mower through the weeds,   
And there, a field rat, startled, squealing bleeds.   
His belly close to ground. I see the blade,   
Blood-stained, continue cutting weeds and shade.

Is it a noun (the blade is cutting shade) or a verb (the blade shades away at the author watches)?

1 Answer 1


As is often the case with poetry, the use of this word is a bit obscure. If one wished to be unkind, one could say that Toomer was looking for a word to rhyme with blade, and stretching a metaphor close to (or perhaps beyond) the breaking point. It's the sort of thing that occurs in poetry about which people write long essays arguing one point of view over another. One might call it awkward, another a stroke of genius.

That said, I would say that it's most likely that it's a noun, and intended to suggest that long grass provides shade for field rats and the like, and that the mowers are removing that shade.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .