‘The Darker Sooner’ by Catherine Wing explores a dying relationship, with sound and imagery propelling the narrative. Wing fusses the poem with a repetitive chime as assonance and consonance abound throughout the poem. It is a dedication to a failing relationship, the coming ‘black weather’ representing its end.
‘The Darker Sooner’ by Catherine Wing focuses on the end of a relationship. The final image of the poem, the coming of ‘winter’ and ‘black weather’ represents the moment in which it is completely over. The preceding lines, often having an aural harmony, relate the story of the degenerating relationship, following from happiness to a ‘duller’ form of love, before finally ending altogether.
You can read the full poem The Darker Sooner here.
Wing splits ‘The Darker Sooner’ into 14 lines, consisting of one continuous stanza. In writing 14 lines, Wing is drawing upon elements of the sonnet form, the archetypical structure that almost always represents ideals of love. By using this form, but not abiding by the rhyme scheme common with this structure, Wing is presenting the idea of disharmony within her relationship. Indeed, as the poem is about the end of a relationship, a broken sonnet is the perfect form to structurally represent the content of the dying relationship.
One technique that Wing employs when writing ‘The Darker Sooner’ is the repetition of words. In doing this, the frequent repetition gives the poem a certain sense of circularity. This could be a representation of how she believes that her relationship isn’t going anywhere, the cyclic words reflecting the lack of progress in their relationship. On the other hand, it could also represent how boring the relationship feels to the poet, with the repetition of words symbolizing the lack of variety in their relationship.
Furthering this idea, the aural qualities of the words she repeated lend the poem a sense of rhythm. The consonance, assonance and general alliteration that is seen across the poem creates a sense of joy and moment. Although the relationship is coming to its end, Wing suggests that she is almost excited at this prospect, enjoying the crumbling nature of love. Sound is incredibly important within the poem, with much of Wing’s message being conveyed through the constant reliance on repeated sounds across words.
The Darker Sooner Analysis
Then came the darker sooner,
happily-ever-after. We were after ever.
The poem beings with the coming of darkness, ‘came the darker’, representing the coming of negativity, hurt, or pain in their relationship – Wing focusing on the moment in which their relationship ceased to be enjoyable. The idea of it coming ‘sooner’ could reflect the pattern of night and day, with the movement towards the coldness of ‘Winter’ being represented through the lack of light in the day. ‘Sooner’ could also be understood as the end of their relationship coming ‘sooner’ than Wing expected, her love failing quicker than expected.
The typical image of ‘happily-ever-after’ is subverted by Wing in these lines, being reframed into ‘no longer’ being this way. This simultaneously suggests that they were once in love, having the archetypical fairy-tale love of ‘happy-ever-after’, and also that they have now fallen from this stage. This furthers a note of melancholy within the poem, with Wing seeing exactly what she has lost in the death of their relationship.
From ‘Happily-ever-after’, they are now represented by being ‘after ever’. This furthers the subversion of the phrase, suggesting they have now reached beyond the fairy-tale phrase of love, actually being in a liminal space in which they are loveless, but still trying to love each other. The consonance of ‘We were’ compounds a sense of sorrow in this moment, with the communicative ‘we’ being overshadowed by the negative connotations of the harsh consonance.
We were farther and further.
and fallen larger.
Wing suggests that at this point in ‘The Darker Sooner’, they began to use the word ‘harder’ more frequently. Things become more difficult, their relationship becoming increasingly unstable and ‘harder’ to maintain.
There is a focus on a sense that something has been ‘lost’ from their relationship. Whereas they were once almost comically happy, they have now ‘fallen’ from their heights of happiness, ‘lost’ are the days of joy. Their ‘Gods’, perhaps here referring to an idealized form of love, were ‘fallen faster, and fallen larger’, being completely destroyed in the process of falling out of love. The complete sense of distance suggested by ‘faster’ and ‘larger’ locates the relationship in a loveless and barren landscape, Wing being shocked at how quickly everything has turned bad.
The day was duller, duller
broke the winter’s black weather.
The quadruple repetition of the harsh ‘d’ sound within ‘day… duller, duller was disaster’ transfixes the mood of the poem, solidifying the sense of melancholy through the strong plosive echo of ‘d’. The use of caesura between ‘duller, duller’ furthers this sense of separation, with the meter being fractured as the poem progresses. Wing is mounting the loss of her love, looking at their now failed relationship with melancholy.
The aural repetition of ‘over’ in ‘instead of lover, never’ focuses on the changed reality of their situation. Although they are the same people, their ‘love’ has been transformed into nothing, represented by ‘never’. The caesura within this line again represents the rift between the former lovers, the break-in meter symbolizing the break in their relationship.
The enjambment across the final two lines, ‘river/broke the winter’ demonstrates the change in their relationship. It has flowed, ‘faster’ than they thought possible, from something of ‘love’ into something of apathy. The use of enjambment represents the shift change in circumstance, the couple seeming more like strangers than former ‘lovers’ by this stage in the poem.
The final image of ‘Winter’s black weather’ arriving further solidifies the mood of the poem, with Wing focuses on the depressing reality of their situation. Winter, both physically and metaphorically representing the cold stage in their relationship, has arrived, causing the final image of the poem to be negative. The ‘black weather’ is a pathetic fallacy of their destroyed relationship, the focus on ‘black’ being a troubling image of stormy skies as the poem comes to a close.