Elizabeth Jennings is known for her simplicity of diction, her clarity of expression, and her deep insight into human emotions and life in general. ‘At Noon’ is one of her selected poems and is a deeply insightful poem. Her strong Catholic faith had a great influence on most of her poems and in addition to what meets the reader’s eye, there is a strong underlying message in these poems.
Summary of At Noon
The poet says that the man is insignificance in front of God, because He is almighty and exists everywhere. The existence of everything in this universe depends upon the will of God. All of his creations are subject to the commands of only God.
Comparing her sorrows and pain, she says: “I want the ease of noon outside,” which means that she wants the Noon soon to come to an end and let the shadows of dawn come over her. The poet says that the world will be established even without her. It doesn’t need her. With the reference of her non-existence, not only the poet wants to show the insignificance of man in front of God, but also wants to show that her sorrow is her own.
Whether she lives or dies, there is no one to talk about her. Her existence before God is nothing. It is only God that decides and defines the existence of a living being in this universe.
Analysis of At Noon
Lying upon my bed I see
Sun leaps through shadows. And I stare
In the poem, ‘At Noon’, by Elizabeth Jennings, the poet says that one day while lying in a pensive mood, the poet glanced at the moon, shining in all its naturalness and charm whereas in reality it was noontime and the sun was out.
So we come to know that the poet was in a very speculative and depressive mood. This was in fact her own imagination and her way of looking at things. In whatever direction, the poet looked she saw the perfection and absoluteness of the world around her and at this point, the poet realized the insignificance of mankind and the supreme sovereignty of God.
Due to her strong Catholic faith, the reader can sense the strong underlying message telling us that we are entirely dependent upon God for our existence. But He who is the supreme, sovereign power does not need anyone’s help to create His creation.
Straight through the words and find again
More than a centre to this room.
In this extract of the poem, the poet says that while going through the pages of the book (this may be the book of perfection that God has given us in terms of nature, including the entire universe that has been created by Him) once again she sees that world which is complete without her. Everything in this world will go on as before and nothing will change or stop. The poet’s pain and helplessness is evident from the lines where she says:
‘I stare straight through the words and find again
A world that has no need of me’.
Another aspect of this stanza can be that passing through the various stages of life we eventually die and leave this world. But this is the harsh reality of life that every business of life goes on as before. And we realize that this is the circle of life, what comes in this world has to go eventually but everything in this world goes on as before. Here the immortality of mankind and his insignificance against the elements of nature dawns on us.
I want the ease of noon outside
Of poems reflect me where I look.
In this third last stanza of the poem, we yet again find the poet in a pensive and speculative mood. She says that she wants the noon time to come to an end. The words in her book though appear to have a different meaning but they do reflect her thoughts. In short, the poet is saying that her perception of the world is quite different from what the others perceive. Through the last lines, we come to know that the poet is trying to show herself very strong, and therefore, she says: “All the wide/And casual day I need to stuff/With my own meaning and the book/Of poems reflect me where I look.”
About Elizabeth Jennings
Born in Boston, Lincolnshire, Elizabeth Jennings passed away in 2001. The poet, having done her graduation from Oxford University, at first worked at Oxford City Library as an Assistant Librarian and then as a reader for the London Publisher Chatto & Windus, and finally, she became a full-time writer for the rest of her life.
She got into the poetry writing career at the very early stage when she was encouraged by one of her schoolteachers and by an uncle, who himself was a poet. She composed her earlier poetries on being inspired by Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, G. K. Chesterton’s “Battle of Lepanto”, and then the odes of Keats.
Later, Jennings was significantly swayed by the poetries of Edwin Muir and Robert Frost. In most of Jennings’s poems, you will come across strong logic, emotional sensitivity, an avoidance of decoration, an absence of vagueness, and an eschewing of any mystification.
She had always kept in mind the proper and correct use of rhyme and meter when it comes to the form and structure of any poem. Her use of words and sentence format can be easily understood. All her poems are simple and without literary decoration and pretentiousness in literature.