‘The Lights at Carney’s Point’ by Alice Moore Nelson-Dunbar is a poetic exploration of the transformative power of light along the Delaware River. Through evocative imagery and shifting atmospheres, the poem delves into contrasting emotions and symbolic associations. It begins with a serene depiction of white lights, transitions to turmoil and foreboding with red lights, transforms into hope and prosperity with golden lights, and concludes with a sense of calm and acceptance. The poem examines the fragile nature of peace, the influence of external forces, and the restorative power of nature.
The Lights at Carney's Point Alice Moore Nelson-DunbarO white little lights at Carney’s Point, You shine so clear o’er the Delaware;When the moon rides high in the silver sky, Then you gleam, white gems on the Delaware.Diamond circlet on a full white throat, You laugh your rays on a questioning boat;Is it peace you dream in your flashing gleam, O’er the quiet flow of the Delaware?And the lights grew dim at the water’s brim, For the smoke of the mills shredded slow between;And the smoke was red, as is new bloodshed, And the lights went lurid ’neath the livid screen.O red little lights at Carney’s Point, You glower so grim o’er the Delaware;When the moon hides low sombrous clouds below, Then you glow like coals o’er the Delaware.Blood red rubies on a throat of fire, You flash through the dusk of a funeral pyre;Are there hearth fires red whom you fear and dread O’er the turgid flow of the Delaware?And the lights gleamed gold o’er the river cold, For the murk of the furnace shed a copper veil;And the veil was grim at the great cloud’s brim, And the lights went molten, now hot, now pale.O gold little lights at Carney’s Point, You gleam so proud o’er the Delaware;When the moon grows wan in the eastering dawn, Then you sparkle gold points o’er the Delaware.Aureate filagree on a Croesus’ brow, You hasten the dawn on a gray ship’s prow.Light you streams of gold in the grim ship’s hold O’er the sullen flow of the Delaware?And the lights went gray in the ash of day, For a quiet Aurora brought a halcyon balm;And the sun laughed high in the infinite sky, And the lights were forgot in the sweet, sane calm.
Explore The Lights at Carney's Point
‘The Lights at Carney’s Point’ by Alice Moore Nelson-Dunbar is a poem that vividly depicts the changing atmosphere and symbolic significance of the lights at Carney’s Point, located by the Delaware River.
The poem captures three distinct scenes, each associated with different emotions and conditions. In the first stanza, the white lights are described as shining clearly over the river, resembling white gems. The moonlight enhances their radiance, creating a peaceful and serene ambiance. The lights seem to dream of peace as they reflect on the calm flow of the Delaware River, illuminating a boat that passes by, possibly seeking solace.
However, in the second stanza, the atmosphere shifts dramatically. The smoke from nearby mills obscures the lights and taints their purity. The smoke is described as red, symbolizing bloodshed and violence. Under this crimson shroud, the lights lose their brilliance and become lurid, conveying a sense of fear and foreboding.
The third stanza introduces red lights that glare ominously over the Delaware River. These lights are compared to blood-red rubies and evoke images of a funeral pyre. They symbolize danger and destruction, their fiery glow reflecting the fear and dread felt by those who live along the river. The lights illuminate the murky flow of the Delaware, revealing the presence of unseen dangers.
In the fourth stanza, the lights take on a golden hue. They are described as gleaming proudly and resembling golden points. As the moon fades and dawn approaches, these lights become even more vibrant. They are compared to an aureate filigree, hastening the arrival of daybreak on a ship’s prow. These golden lights symbolize hope and prosperity, casting streams of gold onto a ship’s hold, where perhaps fortunes are being transported along the Delaware.
The final stanza describes a peaceful and calm scene. The lights fade to gray as the day progresses, seemingly forgotten in the presence of a tranquil dawn. The sun rises high in the infinite sky, and the lights no longer hold significance in the face of the serene and balanced state of nature.
‘The Lights at Carney’s Point’ portrays the changing moods and symbolism associated with the lights along the Delaware River. It moves from a tranquil and hopeful beginning through a turbulent and ominous middle and concludes with a sense of calm and forgetfulness as nature reclaims its dominance. The poem invites reflection on the ever-changing nature of life and the significance we attach to external elements in different contexts.
Structure and Form
‘The Lights at Carney’s Point’ by Alice Moore Nelson-Dunbar is a poem structured in six stanzas, with an alternating pattern of lines. The first stanza consists of eight lines, while the second stanza has four lines. This alternating pattern continues consistently throughout the entire poem, creating a rhythmic and balanced structure.
In terms of rhyme scheme, the poem follows an ABAB pattern. Each quatrain (four-line stanza) consists of alternating rhymes, where the first and third lines rhyme, and the second and fourth lines rhyme. This consistent rhyming scheme contributes to the poem’s musicality and enhances its lyrical quality.
The poem’s form, with its alternating pattern of lines and consistent rhyme scheme, creates a sense of symmetry and balance. The longer stanzas allow for a more detailed description and development of the imagery, while the shorter stanzas provide a concise and impactful contrast.
This structural choice also reflects the thematic content of the poem. The alternating pattern mirrors the contrasting moods and atmospheres presented in each stanza. The longer stanzas, with their descriptive and evocative language, draw the reader into the scene, while the shorter stanzas serve as focal points, emphasizing the emotional shifts and symbolic significance of the lights at Carney’s Point.
The structured form of ‘The Lights at Carney’s Point’ enhances the poem’s flow and musicality, while the consistent rhyme scheme and alternating pattern contribute to its balanced and symmetrical composition. The interplay between the longer and shorter stanzas creates a rhythmic tension that mirrors the shifting emotions and symbolic associations depicted in the poem.
In ‘The Lights at Carney’s Point’ by Alice Moore Nelson-Dunbar, several themes are addressed, each highlighted through vivid imagery and evocative language.
One prominent theme explored in the poem is the contrast between peace and turmoil. The first stanza depicts the lights as clear and peaceful, shining over the Delaware River, while in the second stanza, the smoke from the mills disrupts this tranquility, introducing an atmosphere of unrest and foreboding. This contrast symbolizes the fragile nature of peace and how external factors can disrupt harmony.
Another theme is the cycle of life and death. The red lights in the third stanza, described as blood-red rubies and associated with funeral pyres, represent danger and destruction. These images evoke a sense of mortality, reminding us of the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death.
The poem also explores the theme of hope and prosperity. The golden lights in the fourth stanza symbolize optimism and wealth, casting streams of gold on a ship’s hold. This imagery suggests the potential for success and abundance, contrasting with the earlier scenes of turmoil and darkness.
Additionally, the poem touches upon the theme of nature’s power and resilience. The final stanza portrays a quiet dawn and a serene sky, where the lights fade into the background. This depiction suggests that nature has the ability to restore calm and bring balance, highlighting the enduring strength of the natural world.
‘The Lights at Carney’s Point’ addresses themes of peace and turmoil, life and death, hope and prosperity, and nature’s power and resilience. Through vivid imagery and contrasting scenes, the poem invites reflection on the fragile nature of peace, the transience of life, the potential for optimism, and the enduring power of the natural world.
Poetic Techniques and Figurative Language
In ‘The Lights at Carney’s Point,’ Alice Moore Nelson-Dunbar employs various poetic techniques and figurative language to convey the message of the poem and enhance its imagery.
- Personification: One notable technique is personification, where the lights are given human characteristics and actions. In the first stanza, the lights “laugh” their rays on a questioning boat, creating a sense of liveliness and interaction. This personification deepens the connection between the lights and the natural world.
- Simile: Figurative language is also employed throughout the poem. In the second stanza, the smoke from the mills is described as “red, as is new bloodshed,” using a simile to evoke a vivid image of violence and turmoil. This comparison intensifies the impact of the smoke’s presence and its disruptive nature.
- Metaphor: In the third stanza, the red lights are compared to “blood-red rubies on a throat of fire.” This metaphorical language creates a striking image, emphasizing the dangerous and fiery nature of the lights. It also adds a sense of intensity and urgency to the scene.
- Imagery: The poem further includes vivid visual imagery. In the fourth stanza, the golden lights are described as “gleam[ing] so proud o’er the Delaware” and resembling “golden points.” These visual descriptions help to create a vivid mental picture of the lights, their brightness, and their regal presence.
- Symbolism: Furthermore, the poem utilizes symbolism to convey a deeper meaning. The lights themselves symbolize various emotions and states, such as peace, turmoil, hope, and forgetfulness. The shifting colors of the lights—white, red, and gold—symbolize different emotional and atmospheric states, reflecting the changing moods of the poem.
Alice Moore Nelson-Dunbar skillfully employs poetic techniques in ‘The Lights at Carney’s Point.’ These techniques enrich the poem’s language and imagery, allowing the reader to engage with the themes and emotions conveyed in the verses.
O white little lights at Carney’s Point,
You shine so clear o’er the Delaware;
When the moon rides high in the silver sky,
Then you gleam, white gems on the Delaware.
Diamond circlet on a full white throat,
You laugh your rays on a questioning boat;
Is it peace you dream in your flashing gleam,
O’er the quiet flow of the Delaware?
In the first stanza of ‘The Lights at Carney’s Point,’ Alice Moore Nelson-Dunbar establishes a serene and tranquil atmosphere through the depiction of the white lights shining over the Delaware River. The stanza begins with an apostrophe, addressing the lights directly and personifying them as “white little lights.” This technique immediately establishes a sense of intimacy and connection between the speaker and the lights.
The use of the color white, often associated with purity and innocence, further enhances the peaceful ambiance. The lights are described as shining “so clear,” emphasizing their clarity and brightness. This visual imagery creates a vivid picture of the lights illuminating the surroundings.
The stanza continues with the introduction of the moon, described as riding high in the silver sky. This celestial imagery enhances the ethereal quality of the scene, suggesting a sense of otherworldly beauty and tranquility. The moonlight enhances the radiance of the lights, transforming them into “white gems on the Delaware.” This simile not only adds a touch of elegance to the description but also imbues the lights with a sense of preciousness and beauty.
The next two lines introduce another metaphor, comparing the lights to a “diamond circlet on a full white throat.” This image evokes a sense of adornment and regality, emphasizing the grandeur and majesty of the lights. The phrase “laugh your rays” further personifies the lights, suggesting a playful and joyous interaction with their surroundings.
The stanza concludes with a question posed by the speaker to the lights. The lights’ “flashing gleam” prompts the inquiry of whether they are dreaming of peace. This question adds depth and contemplation, inviting the reader to consider the deeper meaning behind the lights’ presence and their connection to the serene flow of the Delaware River.
The first stanza of ‘The Lights at Carney’s Point’ establishes a serene and enchanting atmosphere through vivid imagery, personification, and metaphors. It sets the stage for the exploration of themes such as peace, beauty, and the power of nature throughout the rest of the poem.
And the lights grew dim at the water’s brim,
For the smoke of the mills shredded slow between;
And the smoke was red, as is new bloodshed,
And the lights went lurid ’neath the livid screen.
In the second stanza of ‘The Lights at Carney’s Point,’ Alice Moore Nelson-Dunbar introduces a stark contrast to the peaceful scene depicted in the previous stanza. The shift in the atmosphere is marked by the arrival of smoke from the mills, which serves as a metaphorical barrier between the lights and the water’s brim.
The stanza begins with the lights growing dim, signifying a loss of their radiance and clarity. This visual imagery reflects the encroaching darkness and disruption caused by the smoke. The phrase “shredded slow between” suggests a gradual intrusion, emphasizing the slow and deliberate nature of the smoke’s arrival.
The smoke is then described as red, evoking a powerful and vivid image. The simile “as is new bloodshed” intensifies the visual impact and adds a sense of violence and danger. This comparison implies that the smoke carries with it a destructive force, symbolizing the turmoil and upheaval present in the scene.
The lights, once radiant and pure, are now depicted as going “lurid ‘neath the livid screen.” The word “lurid” suggests an unsettling and unnatural quality, while “livid” conveys a sense of anger and intense emotion. This imagery reflects the negative impact of the smoke on the lights, distorting their beauty and casting them in an eerie and unsettling light.
Through this stanza, Nelson-Dunbar conveys a message about the fragility of peace and the disruptive influence of external forces. The smoke from the mills serves as a metaphorical representation of industrialization, progress, and the associated negative consequences. The contrast between the previous stanza’s serenity and the second stanza’s darkness and turmoil highlights the vulnerability of harmony when confronted with the encroachment of destructive forces.
This second stanza of ‘The Lights at Carney’s Point’ employs vivid imagery, simile, and metaphor to convey a powerful message about the disruption of tranquility and the encroachment of darkness. It serves as a pivotal point in the poem, introducing conflict and foreshadowing the subsequent themes explored in the remaining stanzas.
O red little lights at Carney’s Point,
You glower so grim o’er the Delaware;
When the moon hides low sombrous clouds below,
Then you glow like coals o’er the Delaware.
Blood red rubies on a throat of fire,
You flash through the dusk of a funeral pyre;
And there hearth fires red whom you fear and dread
O’er the turgid flow of the Delaware?
In the third stanza of ‘The Lights at Carney’s Point,’ Alice Moore Nelson-Dunbar continues to explore the shifting emotions and symbolism associated with the lights. This stanza focuses on the presence of red lights, which evoke a sense of danger, intensity, and unease.
The stanza begins with an apostrophe to the red lights, addressing them directly as “red little lights.” The adjective “red” connotes passion, intensity, and perhaps even anger or warning. This sets the tone for the rest of the stanza, emphasizing the stark contrast between these lights and the previous white lights.
The lights are described as “glower[ing] so grim o’er the Delaware.” This imagery suggests a menacing and somber presence. The use of the verb “glower” conveys an aura of hostility and intensity, reflecting a sense of foreboding or threat.
The following lines introduce a simile, comparing the lights to “blood red rubies on a throat of fire.” This comparison intensifies the imagery, evoking vivid mental pictures of a fiery and dangerous scene. The allusion to a “funeral pyre” further reinforces the sense of death, destruction, and the ominous nature of the red lights.
The stanza concludes by introducing the notion of hearth fires, which the red lights fear and dread. This personification adds depth to the poem by highlighting the dynamic relationship between the lights and the surrounding elements. The phrase “turgid flow of the Delaware” paints a picture of a troubled and tumultuous river, echoing the emotional turmoil evoked by the red lights.
This third stanza of ‘The Lights at Carney’s Point’ presents a powerful image of danger, intensity, and unease through vivid language and symbolic associations. It explores the emotional impact and symbolism of the red lights, portraying them as ominous, fiery, and fearful. This stanza contributes to the overall message of the poem, highlighting the precarious balance between tranquility and chaos along the Delaware River.
And the lights gleamed gold o’er the river cold,
For the murk of the furnace shed a copper veil;
And the veil was grim at the great cloud’s brim,
And the lights went molten, now hot, now pale
In the fourth stanza of ‘The Lights at Carney’s Point,’ Alice Moore Nelson-Dunbar continues to explore the transformative power of the lights, this time shifting their color and symbolism to gold. This stanza conveys a sense of transformation, intensity, and the interplay between light and darkness.
The stanza begins by describing the lights as gleaming gold over the cold river. This change in color from the previous red lights introduces a new sense of hope and prosperity. The gold lights symbolize optimism and wealth, creating an image of brightness and vibrancy.
The following lines introduce the concept of murk from the furnace shedding a copper veil. This metaphorical language paints a picture of a polluted and obscured atmosphere. The “copper veil” suggests a layer of opacity and darkness, obstructing the full radiance of the lights. This imagery introduces a sense of tension and contrast between the brightness of the lights and the surrounding darkness.
The veil is further described as grim at the great cloud’s brim. This personification deepens the somber and foreboding atmosphere, hinting at an impending storm or disturbance. The juxtaposition of the grim veil against the greatness of the cloud adds a sense of magnitude and weight to the scene.
The final line of the stanza portrays the lights going molten, fluctuating between being hot and pale. This imagery suggests a dynamic and ever-changing state, capturing the intensity and volatility of the lights’ glow. The fluctuation between hot and pale conveys a sense of instability and uncertainty.
O gold little lights at Carney’s Point,
You gleam so proud o’er the Delaware;
When the moon grows wan in the eastering dawn,
Then you sparkle gold points o’er the Delaware.
Aureate filagree on a Croesus’ brow,
You hasten the dawn on a gray ship’s prow.
Light you streams of gold in the grim ship’s hold
O’er the sullen flow of the Delaware?
In the fifth stanza of ‘The Lights at Carney’s Point,’ Alice Moore Nelson-Dunbar continues to explore the shifting emotions and symbolism associated with the lights, now depicted as gleaming gold. This stanza introduces a sense of pride, power, and transformation.
The stanza opens with an apostrophe to the gold lights, addressing them directly and emphasizing their radiant presence. The use of the adjective “gold” connotes wealth, opulence, and brightness, setting a tone of grandeur and significance.
The lights are described as gleaming proudly over the Delaware, evoking a sense of confidence and strength. The pride attributed to the lights suggests a positive and triumphant quality, contrasting with the earlier somber tones of the poem.
The following lines introduce the moon and its waning phase, as it grows wan in the eastern dawn. This imagery adds a sense of time and transition, hinting at the cyclical nature of life and the passage of time. The contrast between the fading moon and the sparkling gold lights enhances the vibrancy and impact of the lights’ presence.
The stanza continues with metaphors, comparing the lights to “aureate filigree on a Croesus’ brow.” This metaphorical language enhances the sense of wealth and grandeur associated with the lights. The reference to Croesus, a legendary king known for his vast riches, further emphasizes the power and opulence conveyed by the lights.
The final lines of the stanza describe the lights as streaming gold in the grim ship’s hold, casting light over the sullen flow of the Delaware. This imagery suggests the transformative power of the lights, brightening even the darkest and most difficult places. The use of “grim” and “sullen” in describing the ship and the river emphasizes the contrast between the lights’ radiance and the gloom of the surroundings.
And the lights went gray in the ash of day,
For a quiet Aurora brought a halcyon balm;
And the sun laughed high in the infinite sky,
And the lights were forgot in the sweet, sane calm.
In the sixth and final stanza of ‘The Lights at Carney’s Point,’ Alice Moore Nelson-Dunbar brings the poem to a peaceful and serene conclusion. This stanza conveys a sense of resolution, tranquility, and the power of nature to restore calm.
The stanza begins with a description of the lights going gray in the ash of day. This visual imagery evokes a fading of their brilliance, symbolizing a quiet transition from their previous vibrant states. The use of the word “ash” suggests a sense of finality and closure.
The following lines introduce the arrival of a quiet Aurora, who brings a halcyon balm. This personification imbues the scene with a sense of calm and healing. The phrase “halcyon balm” suggests a soothing and comforting presence, representing a return to harmony and tranquility.
The sun is described as laughing high in the infinite sky, evoking a sense of joy and exuberance. This imagery reinforces the idea of a renewed and revitalized atmosphere. The word “infinite” conveys a sense of vastness and endless possibility, further enhancing the optimistic tone of the stanza.
The final lines of the stanza state that the lights were forgotten in the sweet, sane calm. This suggests that the lights, once the focal point of attention and symbolism, have now become inconsequential in the face of the restored serenity. The emphasis on the words “sweet” and “sane” further underscores the positive and balanced nature of the calm that has settled upon the scene.
The poem triggers a range of feelings, including a sense of awe and beauty in the initial stanzas, followed by unease and apprehension as the atmosphere darkens, and finally, a sense of calm and acceptance as nature restores harmony.
If you enjoyed this poem by Alice Moore Nelson-Dunbar, you might also wish to explore the following others:
- ‘A light exists in Spring’ by Emily Dickinson – is about the light in spring that illuminates its surroundings. Though this poem is about nature, it has a deep religious connotation that science cannot explain.
- ‘A Jag of Lightning’ by Matsuo Bashō – is a beautiful and interesting poem that describes lightning and a heron’s scream.
- ‘A drop fell on the apple tree’ by Emily Dickinson – is filled with joy. It describes, with Dickinson’s classic skill, images of the summer season and how a storm can influence it. You can also explore the full range of Emily Dickinson’s poems.