E Edgar Guest

Being Brave at Night by Edgar Albert Guest

‘Being Brave at Night’ is written by the American poet Edgar Albert Guest and it was published in his poetry collection Rhymes of Childhood. The speaker of this piece talks about how he is not afraid of anything that comes across to terrify him at night.

‘Being Brave at Night’ is a pure children’s classic that deals with childhood fears at night. The speaker of this piece is unlike any other child out there. He is brave and unafraid of any ghosts or such terrifying figures that haunt others like him. Through this piece, Guest advises all his little readers to be as brave as the speaker. Their parents are always there to protect them. So, there’s nothing to actually fear about.


Summary

‘Being Brave at Night’ by Edgar Guest describes how some terrifying creatures try to haunt a speaker at night. He tricks them each time and quickly crawls back to bed with his dad.

This beautiful piece is about children’s fears and how to deal with them. The speaker of this piece is such a child who challenges the stereotypes. He is unabashed, firm, and brave. The child knows how to deal with the imaginary figures that try to haunt him. Once when he was in bed and suddenly he saw a ferocious elephant was after him. Another night there was a three-headed fire-spitting giant who appeared to terrify him. In another incident, he came across a host of ghosts. However, each time he had a firm hold over his nerves and tricked them. He quickly crawled back in bed with his dad.

You can read the full poem here.

Detailed Analysis

Stanza One

The other night ’bout two o’clock, or maybe it was three,

(…)

I just escaped from where I was and crawled in bed with Dad.

The poem ‘Being Brave at Night’ begins interestingly. Guest’s speaker is a little boy whose tone reflects a sense of fearlessness and bravery. Throughout the piece, he describes how he came across some haunting creatures in the middle of the night.

In the first stanza, he talks about coming across an elephant. Its tusks have a mysterious shine. It started chasing after him. From this reference, it becomes clear that the child has a vivid imagination. All the things he describes in the text are merely his mind-made illusions.

The elephant that he saw in the midnight sprayed jets of steam with its proboscis or long nose. Quite interestingly, the elephant had predatory instincts. It was out to eat him alive. At this critical juncture, the speaker showed no sign of fear. He remarks that if he let the creature see his fear, it would make it believe that its tactic had worked.

Since he was intelligent, what he did was not wasting any time, escaped from where he was. Then he quickly crawled back in bed with his father who was asleep.

Another important thing to note regarding the structure of lines. Guest omits a few vowel or consonant sounds from the lines for the sake of metrically structuring the lines. As mentioned before, each line consists of seven beats. Therefore, he abbreviates a few words like we do while conversing.

Stanza Two

One time there was a giant who was horrible to see,

(…)

Before his hands could collar me I crawled in bed with Dad.

In the second stanza of ‘Being Brave at Night,’ another creature tries to knock the speaker out. Once he was sleeping. Suddenly he had an illusion of a ferocious giant. Like fairy tales, the giant was three-headed and it had twenty arms. He also came after the speaker to terrify him.

Besides, it was a fire-spitting giant and all its hands were red. The portrayal resembles a devil which can be found in the children’s picture books. From this reference, it becomes clear that the child reads such books quite often.

Not only that, the giant threatened him by saying that he would grind his delicate bones and make them turn into bread. Such a verbal threat would make any child extremely terrified. In the case of Guest’s speaker, he tricked him this time as he did before. According to him, he was too smart for him and tricked him “mighty bad”. The word “mighty” refers to how brave the child was.

Before the giant could collar him, he crawled back with his dad. In the last line, Guest uses an internal rhyming: “… his hands could collar me I crawled in bed with dad.” Here, the hard “k” sound is repeated.

Stanza Three

I ain’t scared of nothin’ that comes pesterin’ me at night.

(…)

To find that I had slipped away an’ crawled in bed with Dad.

At the beginning of the third stanza, the speaker announces fearlessly that nothing that comes pestering him at night can scare him. Once a group of forty ghosts was chasing him at midnight. They were all shimmering white. The term “shimmer” means a soft, tremulous light.

In this case, he was successful in fooling them. All he did was to make them chase after him. He continued running in his room and they followed him. At last, when they thought he was tired, he quickly leaped onto his bed. He crawled in bed with his dad. Naturally, the ghosts were frustrated as they were not able to find him anymore.

Edgar Guest uses a few expressions that make this illusory story of a child seem realistic. For example, Guest uses the exclamation “Oh Gee!” to depict that the incident was real. However, it was not. The child saw the ghosts in his illusion.

Stanza Four

No giants, ghosts or elephants have dared to come in there

‘Coz if they did he’d beat ’em up and chase ’em to their lair.

(…)

But I don’t ever yell out loud. I’m not that sort of lad,

I slip from out the covers and I crawl in bed with Dad.

The last stanza of the poem ‘Being Brave at Night’ clarifies why our speaker is not terrified at all. He says that if any creature tries to coke after him, his dad would beat them up and chase them back to their lair. In this way, Guest describes how parents always protect their children from any threats. This child understands it, thus he is unafraid.

In the following lines, Guest presents an epigrammatic idea. According to his speaker, those imaginary creatures just hang around children’s rooms to scare them. They laugh if they see a child scared by them. Those egoistic creatures become inflated when they see children yelling for help and crying. That’s why the child in this poem does not show any sign of fear and tension. He just slips out of their cover and crawls in bed with his dad.

In the line “an’ snap an’ snarl an’ bite,” the poet uses polysyndeton to depict a sense of continuing. He does so to emphasize each of these terms. Through this line, the speaker describes how the creatures like giants and ghosts scare little children.

Structure

This poem consists of a regular rhyming pattern and a fixed metrical scheme. The overall poem consists of four stanzas. Among them, the first three contain six lines each. The last one is comparably long and has eight lines in it. Edgar Guest uses rhyming couplet form throughout. So, the rhyme scheme of this piece is ABAB and it remains fixed. There is only one exception in lines 21-24. In these lines, Guest uses an alternative rhyme scheme. Regarding the meter of the text, it is written in a regular iambic heptameter. It means each line consists of seven iambs.

Literary Devices

Edgar Guest uses several literary devices in his poem ‘Being Brave at Night’. The important ones are mentioned below:

  • Alliteration: It occurs in “was wavin(g),” “could capture,” “giants, ghosts,” “snap an(d) snarl,” etc.
  • Metaphor: There is a metaphor in the phrase “jets of steam”. Here, Guest compares the water sprayed by the elephant to jets of steam.
  • Anaphora: It occurs in lines 11-12. These lines begin with the word “And”.
  • Hyperbole: The use of hyperbolic expressions can be found in the following phrases “three heads and twenty arms,” “red hot fire came from his mouths,” “chased by forty ghosts,” etc.
  • Epigram: In the last stanza, Guest epigrammatically talks about childhood fear and how one can deal with them.


Historical Context

The poem ‘Being Brave at Night’ was first published in Edgar Albert Guest’s collection of poetry The Passing Throng. It was published in 1923. Later, the poem appeared in his book Rhymes of Childhood in 1924. It is one of the best-known poems of Edgar Guest. E.A. Guest was a British-born American poet who was also known as the People’s Poet.

Edgar Guest’s poems had an optimistic view of everyday life. Likewise in this poem, readers can find how optimistically the speaker deals with childhood fear. After reading this poem, children realize that as long as they remain strong from the inside, nothing can scare them.

FAQs

What is the meaning of ‘Being Brave at Night’ by Edgar Guest?

The title of Edgar Guest’s children’s poem ‘Being Brave at Night’ is about how to be brave at night. In this piece, the poet presents a child who tricks fearful creatures and remains strong while facing them. He just quickly crawls back with his father in bed.

When was the poem ‘Being Brave at Night’ published?

The poem ‘Being Brave at Night’ was first published in 1923 in Edgar Guest’s collection of poetry The Passing Throng.

What is the theme of ‘Being Brave at Night’?

Edgar Guest’s ‘Being Brave at Night’ taps on the themes of childhood fear, bravery, and common sense. The main theme of this piece is childhood fear. In this piece, the speaker describes how children become scared by several illusory creatures and how they can keep calm while facing them.

Who is the speaker of the poem?

The speaker of this poem is a little boy. He describes how he had seen a ferocious elephant, a three-headed fire-spitting giant, and a group of forty ghosts. They kept chasing him until he slid back to bed with his father.

How does a child be brave at night?

Children have illusions of some daunting creatures at midnight. The characters that they have either come across in the books or pictures, come chasing them in their dreams. The speaker of this piece advises them to be calm. If they show signs of fear, it makes those creatures satisfied. Children can easily fool them by quickly crawling back to their parents.


Similar Poems

Readers who have enjoyed Edgar Guest’s poem ‘Being Brave at Night’ can also find the following poems interesting.

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About
A complete expert on poetry, Sudip graduated with a first-class B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature. He has a passion for analyzing poetic works with a particular emphasis on literary devices and scansion.
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