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"Lights out" - poem analysis


learningtowrite 32 / 50  
May 5, 2008   #1
Hi, I'm doing the analysis of this poem, Lights out. This is the analysis of the first three stanzas. Can you give me some suggestions on how to improve my arguments?

Through simple and rhythmic language, Edward Thomas shows us other interesting aspects of sleep.

I have come to the borders of sleep,
The unfathomable deep
Forest where all must lose
Their way, however straight,
Or winding, soon or late;
They cannot choose.


In the first stanza, Thomas describes sleep as a powerfully alluring gift of nature. Metaphorically, sleep is compared to getting lost in a deep, dark forest, one that we are naturally drawn to, one that we can never resist.

Many a road and track
That, since the dawn's first crack,
Up to the forest brink,
Deceived the travellers,
Suddenly now blurs,
And in they sink.


Here love ends,
Despair, ambition ends,
All pleasure and all trouble,
Although most sweet or bitter,
Here ends in sleep that is sweeter
Than tasks most noble.


In these two stanzas, Thomas shows that sleep comes to us as a great relief from our hard and painful daily routine. In our selfish craze for more and more material gain, we may start work from dawn, not allowing ourselves necessary rest. But when sleep approaches us, we will submit ourselves to its sweet temptations. Soon we step into an unknown and mysterious dreamland. We cannot simply resist it. It is also a natural cure to our miseries and fatigue. We put the lights out and enjoy a peaceful slumber.

Besides showing his gratefulness to the comfort that sleep brings, Thomas's poem depicts death through its implicit resemblance with sleep. Death is a natural process of life, one nobody can ever resist. It comes naturally, rescuing people from their hectic routine, from their troubled lives and opens for them another door, "sweeter than tasks most noble".

The last two stanzas are those I'm having problems on.
There is not any book
Or face of dearest look
That I would not turn from now
To go into the unknown
I must enter and leave alone
I know not how.


Here I suppose the author is trying to say that death is irresistible. You have to go alone into it. Can you give me some ideas? I don't really get this stanza.

The tall forest towers;
Its cloudy foliage lowers
Ahead, shelf above shelf;
Its silence I hear and obey
That I may lose my way
And myself.


This, I suppose, is talking about how mysterious/ dangerous looking death is, with the foliage and tall trees towering. It is like leaving all your life behind. It is like losing yourself to nature, to your instinct, to return to the purest of life.

Can you tell me what "shelf above shelf" refer to? Is it the towering tree or what can it be? And what can you say about the paradox "Its silence I hear"?

Thanks so much!
EF_Team5 - / 1,586  
May 5, 2008   #2
Good afternoon!

I believe you have the two main themes down fine; sleep as rest, and sleep as death. An interpretation for this stanza:

There is not any book
Or face of dearest look
That I would not turn from now
To go into the unknown
I must enter and leave alone
I know not how.


is just what you have said; there is no stopping death. We all must die our own, personal, individual deaths. It is the singular event in life that we cannot be accompanied for. Each of our deaths is unique, and since there is nothing to compare it to, we are naturally afraid. At the same time, when it calls, we are helpless to answer. When it is our time to go there is a point when it is all that we desire. I believe this is the concept that Thomas is trying to emphasize in this stanza.

As for this one:

The tall forest towers;
Its cloudy foliage lowers
Ahead, shelf above shelf;
Its silence I hear and obey
That I may lose my way
And myself.


the only way I can give you a meaningful interpretation is to share a very personal story with you; please bear with me, it will make sense in the end.

This past summer, I lost my mother to alcoholism-liver failure, more precisely. My family and I did not realize it at the time, but she had been slowly dying for two years. She refused medical attention, and by the time her mental state was such that we could commit her to the hospital without her consent, it was far too late and she died in five days. Hospice helped me through this event, and it is their knowledge that I now pass on to you.

When we die from an illness or other incurable malady, rather it is rapidly or prolonged, there are stages; these stages all have their own time periods, but they can usually be grouped together to be recognizable to those observing the process. The first stage begins about a year out and has symptoms much like depression; withdrawal, irritation, loss of interest. At six months remaining, these symptoms continue, but physical symptoms begin as well. Of course these vary depending on the situation, but loss of appetite and increased time spent sleeping or "resting" is apparent. At four months, the sleeping becomes markedly increased as well as other physical symptoms increasing. The increase in sleeping is in preparation for the next journey; all of their work is now "inner work" because they do not need to do any "outer work" as they no longer need their body. The count down and symptoms increase as time passes, and then within a day or two before death occurs, the person improves dramatically for a short period of time. In my mother's case, she was able to hold a short conversation with her parents and siblings and give goodbyes; she had been unable to talk or breathe on her own for three days prior to this event. This is the 'last hurrah'. The individual will pass within 24 hours of this clarifying moment.

I believe the shelf Thomas refers to is this process. He is able to look beyond his surroundings, but is still aware of the machinery that is working, regardless of his feelings about its operation. I believe the towering tree is a metaphor for life; as the process moves on there is more time for inner reflection about the things we have done in our life.

As far as hearing only silence, this could be his senses failing as he passes. My mom's vision went rapidly, and she stopped responding to sound shortly after.

Thank you for bearing with me; I hope that you can sift through my diatribe and salvage something that can help you with your paper.

Regards,
Gloria
Moderator, EssayForum.com
OP learningtowrite 32 / 50  
May 6, 2008   #3
Thank you Gloria for sharing with me your personal insight. It really helps me understand the last stanza. The poem seems so much more insightful after reading your analysis.

Do you think that "foliage lowers" can mean that the door from life to death is gradually closed? After that, the poet is in another world, he gives up fighting and succumbs to nature?
EF_Team5 - / 1,586  
May 6, 2008   #4
Good morning!

That is exactly what I'm thinking he means. The poem seems to slow down and close up, just as the life he explains.
charliesun 9 / 28  
Jan 3, 2009   #5
I think the images you are using is not strong enough for the atmosphere you want to express. You may try something else.


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