A World Of Light By Elizabeth Jennings

AWorld Of Light explores the idea of dark and light and contravenes the traditional use of these two with the light representing good and peace and the dark representing evil and negativity. These traditional associations are flipped on their head. I think that the poem is ostensibly about being able to take peace in situtaions that seem dark. To be at one with both the light and the dark. The poem is full of ambiguity but appears to be about feelings and dealing with situations.


Form and Tone

The poem is written in free verse. It appears in five stanzas each one containing six lines. The poem is very creative in its use of rhyme. Although within each stanza there is no rhyming pattern. The first line of each stanza rhymes with one another. This is the case for all six lines of each stanza. Allthough the rhymes aren’t always perfect and are sometimes just half rhymes. The poem is full of imagery and describes a very powerful feeling we presume in the young life of the poet.


A World Of Light Analysis

First Stanza

There is an interesting use of words in the first line of this stanza of the poem, which you can read in full here. Light is usually associated with positives and dark with negatives. In this line that is almost reversed as the narrator says they are suffering light. The narrator then personifies the candles and says that they are “heaving”. Once again this suggestion gives the light an unexpected negative quality. The narrator then says they saw the shadow of their old self dwindle. Did they like their old self? Is this emotion good or bad? It isn’t really clear although the next two lines suggest that it is a positive emotion as they feel a sense of peace.


Second Stanza

Day is the first word mentioned in this stanza. This is the time you would associate with light. Again this is described negatively as dawdling. However the narrator states that it is night within. Does this mean that on the inside they feel okay as light and darks meanings seem to have almost flipped? Once again we see the dark being mentioned with positive connotations. The dark hands are described as soft and offer a protection of sorts from the noise.

The candle is described as being snuffed. It would appear that the candle can not cause a shadow around the narrator. What does this mean exactly? That the light can not highlight any negative features? Either way we see a startling oxymoron in the last line of this stanza as the narrator describes a dazzling dark. Dazzling is usually a phrase we would expect to be used to describe the light.


Third Stanza

This is interesting as it shows that the narrator has an awareness that the way they are feelings isn’t necessarily the way things should be. This entire stanza seems to describe the narrator being introspective. Looking inside themselves and examining the way that they feel. They want to trust how they are feeling but they are not sure if they should or not. The thoughts that the narrator seems to be having in this stanza are quite random. They think of their clothes and voices. This gives the impression of a racing mind. It’s as if questioning their senses is causing them a feeling of disharmony.


Fourth Stanza

It seems like the narrator stops taking in their surroundings for a while but this is not a choice. As indicated by the breackets! It is unclear why they are no longer “taking in data” perhaps they have just gotten used to their surrounding? But what is clear is being able to block that stuff out is helping them to feel relaxed. We see after this break that the inverse nature of the light and the dark seems to have flipped back to the norm. Light is once again described in a positive manner and used to describe the person. This stanza then symbolises a rebirth of sorts as the narrator describes themselves as having bright new plumage. There are lots of positives here to suggest the narrator has dealt with their troubles and come through the other side.


Fifth Stanza

I think the first two lines of this stanza are used to describe the narrators journey from darkness into the light. How they once had a racing mind filled with fire, light, air, birds, wax etc. but that has all dissipated. They talk about the situation and how difficult it was to deal with. They describe the hottest fire as appearing cool. Perhaps the intonation here is that despite being in a situation where they should have felt euphoric they felt down. In a room full of candles they only felt dark.

It would appear it is a situation they have learned to deal with now though as they say that every breath is a homage to peace. This suggests that they are truly comfortable with their surroundings now. That they no longer feel turmoil. In fact it seems that they now embrace the peace without fear. It seems like they had issue with the late but that has disaapted.


About Elizabeth Jennings

Elizabeth Jennings was an English poet who begun her life in Boston but then moved to Oxford where she resided thereafter. Jennings is not renowned for poetry that you would refer to as being particularly innovative but is instead considered a traditionalist. She is particularly well know for lyric poetry using simple rhymes and rhythms. It would appear she was quite social acting as a member of a poetry group “The Movement” which consisted of with Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis and Thom Gunn . She had a lengthy career and over the course of it produced an impressive thirty poetry collections as well as acting as an editor on some notable works.

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