What Though the Dark Come Down

Annette Wynne

‘What Though the Dark Come Down’ by Annette Wynne is a powerful, four-stanza poem that explores the power, or lack thereof, darkness holds. 

Annette Wynne

Nationality: America

Annette Wynne was an American poet who specialized in children’s poetry.

She's best known for the poem 'A Butterfly Talks.'

Key Poem Information

Central Message: Light can only follow darkness

Themes: Death

Speaker: Unknown

Emotions Evoked: Hope

Poetic Form: Quatrain

Time Period: 20th Century

Wynne speaks thoughtfully about a universal truth: that without fear, sorrow, and night we cannot experience peace, joy, and light

While there are some moments of more complicated language in this poem, the poet has a very clear message— that darkness is an indicator of light, or evil is an indicator of good. She reminds readers that one should not fear the falling of the dark because it’s only after the dark that it’s possible to see any light. 

She explores some important themes in this poem, including darkness/light and hope, particularly when things seem hopeless. 

What Though the Dark Come Down by Annette Wynne


‘What Though the Dark Come Down’ by Annette Wynne is an uplifting poem that reminds anyone reading that darkness is an omen of light. 

The poem goes through the four stanzas outlining that it’s only in the dark that one can experience light. This serves as a symbol for anything good/evil or joyful/sorrowful. The poem uses a few examples, including a ship alone at sea, to illustrate the meaning of this poem. The poet asks, generally, so what if darkness comes? That only means that light is going to follow. 

You can read the poem in full using the following citation as reference:

Wynne, A. (1932). “What though the dark come down.” All through the year: three hundred and sixty-five new poems for holidays and every day (p. 284). New York. Frederick A. Stokes.

Structure and Form 

‘What Though the Dark Come Down’ by Annette Wynne is a four-stanza poem divided into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains are very regular, using the same rhyme scheme repeatedly. The stanzas follow a rhyme scheme of ABCB, with the “A” rhyme utilizing the same word in every stanza. 

The poet repeated much of poem’s first line at the beginning of every other stanza. The phrase “dark come down” ends the first line of each stanza; this is an example of epistrophe and a refrain. Repetition is a very important literary device in this poem, as discussed below. 

Literary Devices 

In this poem, the poet makes use of a few literary devices. These include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Anaphora: the repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines. Anaphora is the opposite of epistrophe. For example, “What though” is used three times in stanzas one and two. 
  • Rhetorical Question: a question to which one does not expect an answer. For example, “What though the dark come on the sea, / And the ships and the hills and all?” It is used to provide emphasis far more than it is to actually inspire an answer. 
  • Consonance: seen through the poet’s repetition of the same consonant sound. For example, the double “l” in “hills” and “all” in line four of stanza one. 

Detailed Analysis 

Stanza One

What though the dark come down,

What though the shadows fall,

What though the dark come on the sea,

And the ships and the hills and all?

In the first stanza, the speaker begins by using the line that later came to be used as the title. She asks a rhetorical question that begins with the phrase “What though the dark come down” and ends with “And the ships and the hills and all?” 

She acknowledges with these lines that darkness falls on the land regularly. It comes to the hills and the ships on the sea in equal measure. But, rather than expressing fear or trepidation over that fact (as darkness usually symbolizes danger or death), the speaker effectively says that it doesn’t matter that darkness falls. The poet writes “What though,” which can be loosely translated as “So what if.” 

From these lines, readers can already interpret that the poem is going to be focusing on the importance, or lack thereof, of darkness/the perception of danger falling on the world. The speaker is going to assert a resistant attitude, standing up to the fear of what could accompany the darkest hours of the day. 

Stanza Two 

What though the dark come down,


There is a truth to know.

The second stanza is quite similar to the first. It uses much of the same language, including a perfect repetition of the first line. The poet uses these lines to reassert what appeared in stanza one, saying that it doesn’t matter if darkness comes or that the “night winds blow” (another thing that might strike fear into the hearts of others). 

She ends the stanza by saying that it doesn’t matter that one “little ship” is sailing outside.” Finally, after this line, readers get to why the speaker is so certain that none of the things she’s mentioned matter. It’s because she knows a “truth.” There is something she’s aware of that makes the darkness far less intimidating than it is to others. She doesn’t fear the dark as others do because of this one thing. 

Stanza Three

Only when dark comes down,


Can day-dawn be welcomed again.

That “thing” that the speaker knows is outlined in the third and fourth stanzas of the poem. The speaker provides the answer to the rhetorical question, “So what” if darkness falls? The speaker says that the reason she’s unafraid of the darkness or being alone in the darkness (symbolized by the single ship on the sea) is that it’s only at night that certain beautiful things happen, like the “Night birds” calling through the glen. 

She adds to this, saying that darkness isn’t something to fear because the day can only follow if night descends. Lightness and dark depend on one another; you can’t have light without dark, so there is no reason to fear the darkness. 

Stanza Four 

Only when dark comes down,


Can the little ship find the star.

The final stanza feels slightly more complicated but is fairly simple when broken down. The poet focuses on the single ship from stanza two, saying that this ship can only find its way (indicated by the “star) if it’s dark. A ship at sea will only know where to go if the stars are out. It seems likely that the poet was thinking of the north star when she wrote “the star” as it is commonly used for nighttime navigation and one can find other directions based off of its position. 

The star, which only appears due to the night falling, is also the only way out of finding oneself lost at sea (and escaping from the “deepest dark.” 

In conclusion, this piece attempts to remind readers that without darkness, there is no light and that the darkness can actually bring with it things that are invisible or do not happen, during the day, like birds singing and stars shining in the sky. 


What is the tone of ‘What Though the Dark Come Down?’ 

The tone is determined and inspirational. The speaker is very certain about their assertions and shows no wavering in how they feel about the darkness and light. 

What is the purpose of the poem ‘What Though the Dark Come Down?’

The purpose is to remind readers that there is no light without darkness. This can allude to any variety of dangers, fears, and sorrows. One cannot find happiness unless there is something to contrast it. 

What is Annette Wynne known for? 

Annette Wynne is not one of the 20th century’s best-known poets. But, she is known for poems like A Butterfly Talksand for her specialty in children’s poetry. 

What kind of poem is ‘What Though the Dark Come Down?’ 

‘What Though the Dark Come Down’ is an inspirational poem about the importance of balance in the world. The poet hopes to share that without darkness, there is no light, just as without evil, there is no good.

Similar Poetry

Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider exploring some other Annette Wynne poems. For example: 

  • A Butterfly Talks’ – is a poem that emphasizes the splendor of simple things in nature.

Other related poems include: 

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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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