Throughout this poem, D.H. Lawrence uses several literary devices, such as imagery, to create a clear mood and tone. His speaker is thoughtful and clear-minded from the beginning of the poem to the end. He’s able to assess his life and see where it’s cluttered and chaotic.
Explore Bei Hennef
The poet’s speaker addresses the beautiful scene he’s experiencing in the first lines of ‘Bei Hennef.’ He describes the twilight, the river, and how far away he feels from his every day worries. This is something that allows him to think clearly in a way he can’t when he’s going about his mundane routine. Now, he can look around him and at his love and know how pure and full it is. He loves the intended listener of this poem, “you,” fully and completely. He knows now that the two complete one another. Despite this, he concludes, they still suffer from the annoyances of reality, and their love isn’t as strong as it could be on a day to day basis.
In ‘ Bei Hennef,’ the poet engages with themes of nature and love. Throughout this poem, nature allows the speaker to transcend his everyday life and elevate his emotions. The natural world provides him with a gateway to the truth of his emotions—specifically, the truth and depth of his love for the listener. The twilight setting clears his mind, and he knows how important his relationship is to this person. These emotions are far less accessible when he’s in another setting that clouds his mind.
Structure and Form
‘Bei Hennef’ by D.H. Lawrence is a five-stanza poem that is separated into uneven sets of lines. The first two stanzas have three lines, making them tercets, the third stanza has two lines (a couplet), the fourth stanza has five (a quintain), and the final stanza has seven total lines. Readers will likely also note how the lines are indented unevenly in the original text. This is a technique that’s sometimes used by poets to add visual interest to the poem and control the movement of the reader’s eye.
Lawrence makes use of several literary devices in ‘Bei Hennef.’ These include but are not limited to alteration, imagery, and anaphora. The latter is a type of repetition that occurs when the poet repeats the same word or phrase at the beginning of lines. For example, “You are the” starts the first three lines of the fifth stanza. “You” also begins the sixth line of that stanza.
Alliteration is another kind of repetition. It occurs when the poet uses the same consonant sounds at the beginning of words. For example, “twittering,” and “twilight” in line one of the first stanza and “Strange,” “suffer,” and “spite” in the last line of the poem.
Imagery is one of the most important poetic devices that a writer can use. It occurs when the poet uses particularly evocative or interesting descriptions. For example, “The little river twittering in the twilight.” This line, and others like it, allow the reader to engage their imagination and visually clearly what the poet describes.
Stanzas One and Two
The little river twittering in the twilight,
The wan, wondering look of the pale sky,
This is almost bliss.
And everything shut up and gone to sleep,
All the troubles and anxieties and pain
Gone under the twilight.
In the first two stanzas of ‘Bei Hennef,’ the speaker begins by using some beautiful and clearly described images. He depicts a river that moves in the twilight. The sky itself, he says, is “pale” and looks “wondering.” This unusually placed word creates a wistful and thoughtful scene that the speaker adds onto by saying that it was “almost bliss.” By using “almost,” it immediately suggests to the reader that something is missing. The scene or moment could be even better than it is.
Under the twilight, he adds in this second stanza. Everything is almost gone. There are no
“troubles and anxieties and pain.” The voices one hears in their head, reminding them of their weakness or mistakes are quite. It’s all “gone to sleep.” This use of personification is another thoughtful element of the poem. By using “sleep” to describe the peaceful mindset, it helps to evoke the gentle nature of the overall atmosphere.
Stanzas Three and Four
Only the twilight now, and the soft “Sh!” of the river
That will last forever.
And at last I know my love for you is here,
I can see it all, it is whole like the twilight,
It is large, so large, I could not see it before
Because of the little lights and flickers and interruptions,
Troubles, anxieties, and pains.
In the third stanza, the weaker says that “now” there is the twilight and the sound of the river. He uses the onomatopoeic “Sh!” to mimic the sound. These natural elements are going to “last forever,” implying that there are other things that aren’t going to.
In the fourth stanza, which is five lines long, the speaker directs his words to “you.” He starts talking about the relationship he has with this person. Because the twilight has pushed away all of his worries and fears, the speaker is now able to see the fullness of his love for “you.” This person is incredibly important to him, but with everyday life being what it is, he hasn’t been able to clearly feel or see that until now. The “interruptions” and “little lights and flickers” aren’t able to bother him at this moment.
You are the call and I am the answer,
You are the wish, and I the fulfillment,
You are the night, and I the day.
What else—it is perfect enough,
It is perfectly complete,
You and I.
Strange, how we suffer in spite of this!
In the fifth stanza, the poet uses anaphora to emphasize how important the listener is to the speaker. He tells this person that they are the “call,” and he is the “answer.” They are two sides of the same coin, the two halves that complete one another. The “night” and “day.” There’s no need for them to seek out anything else when what they have is “complete” as it is. It is “perfect,” the speaker says. But, the poem concludes on a slightly more complex note. The speaker says that it’s “Strange” and presumably troubling how, despite this knowledge, they “suffer.” This refers to the times when they aren’t in the clarity of twilight. When the real world returns, love, and returning to this perfect aren’t easy. This message can also apply to other people, other situations, and other loves.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Bei Hennef’ should also consider reading some of Lawrence’s other best-known poems. For example:
- ‘Beautiful Old Age’ – imagines a world in which old age is revered and hoped for.
- ‘A Winter’s Tale’ – tells the story of two lovers parting in the woods on a dark, winter day. The speaker loves the person he’s meeting but is also distressed by that fact.
- ‘Discord in Childhood’ – compares a domestic conflict with a storm raging outside the home.