In Praise of Creation

Elizabeth Jennings


Elizabeth Jennings

Nationality: English

Elizabeth Jennings was a British poet and writer known for her lyrical and introspective style.

Her first collection was Poems in 1953.

The speaker of this poem, ‘In Praise of Creation’, is in awe of creation. That much is quite obvious. However, the speaker is deliberately vague about why nature is so inspiring and awesome, in the truest sense of the word. While some attribute the order and detail of creation to a creator, others attribute it to chance. The fact that the speaker uses the word “creation” in the title, suggests her belief that something or someone intelligent is behind the order and wonder of nature. However, she does not delve into that aspect of creation with her poem. She simply stands in awe of all that creation is, from the sky above, to the tiger, down the mating rituals of the birds. The speaker finds it all unspeakably awe-inspiring.

In Praise of Creation by Elizabeth Jennings


In Praise of Creation Analysis

Stanza One

That one bird, one star,
The one flash of the tiger’s eye
Purely assert what they are,
Without ceremony testify.

In the first stanza of ‘In Praise of Creation’, the speaker notices the small things in creation that have caused her to stand in awe of it. She has studied “that one bird” and the “one star” for long enough to acknowledge that the beauty and wonder behind one tiny little bird is too much for her mind to comprehend. She realizes that the light from one star travelling from millions of light-years away, is enough to cause her to stand in complete awe of the universe. She then refers to “the one flash of the tiger’s eye”. She finds the tiger to be a specimen truly unique and fascinating. One flash of his eye reveals the intricate and complicated nature of creation. The speaker claims that these parts of the earth and the universe “clearly assert what they are”. She does not explicitly claim that they assert a creator. Nor does she deny one. Rather, she claims that the bird, the star, and the tiger in themselves assert what they are, and by their very natures testify to what they are. There needs to be no ceremony. Rather, they testify by simply doing what is in their nature for them to do.


Stanza Two

Testify to order, to rule –
Of birds, the moon sometimes cut thinly.

The speaker continues to explain the claims she implicitly made in the first stanza. She claims that what these magnificent parts of creation testify to, is “order” and “rule”. This seems to give the implication that nature does not lend itself well to the idea of it’s being there due to chance, but rather demands the idea of order and rule. She goes on to explain that the way “the birds mate at one time only” and “how the sky is…full of birds” are all signs that there is an incredible about of order and rule in creation. She is amazed at the changes of the moon, and the way that it is “sometimes cut thinly” and other times is full. This indirectly reveals her awe at the way the universe is set up so that the moon orbits the earth and the earth the sun in such a way that to the human eye, it seems that sometimes the moon is “cut thin”. The fact that the birds mate at only one time also strikes the speaker fascinating. If mating is something instinctual, why do the birds wait until a certain time of year? All of the speaker’s observations re-iterate her awe at the order and rule that seems to exist in the universe, from the moon, to the birds in the sky, the speaker marvels at the way the earth and universe function.


Stanza Three

And the tiger wrapped in the cage of his skin,
Till the tigress’ shadow casts

With the third stanza of ‘In Praise of Creation’, the speaker finds it amazing that an animal as dangerous as a tiger comes with a visible warning sign. She sees the tiger’s stripes as a type of cage, warning other animals of the dangerous nature of this beast. Yet, though it is a dangerous animal, it still is “watchful over creation” as though it plays a very important role in the way that nature functions. The speaker then describes the way the tiger rests and waits “for the blood to pound” and “the drums to begin” The language used here reveals that something intense is about to happen, though the speaker does not yet reveal what that is. She simply says that the tigress will cast a shadow.


Stanza Four

A darkness over him, a passion, a scent,
And the blood beats beyond reason.

With this stanza of ‘In Praise of Creation’, the speaker gives further detail concerning this event. She describes the way the shadow of the tigress would fall over the tiger, and there would be “a passion” and “a scent”. It is clear now that the speaker is referring to the mating of the tiger and the tigress. In the midst of the mating of these two magnificent creatures, the world seems to go “turning, turning”. This language, quite obviously, reflects that of William Butler Yeats in one of his most famous poems, The Second Coming, in which Yeats seems to suggest that the world is spinning out of control.

The speaker in this poem, however, uses similar language to convey a meaning just the opposite. She seems to see the world as maintaining order, and the mating of the two powerful beasts suggests not that the world is spinning out of control, but rather that it continues to turn in uniform, as it was created to do, allowing the seasons to change and time to go on. This, the speaker suggests, “sieves earth to its one sure element”. The speaker does not directly reveal what this “one sure element” is, but the next line suggests that mating practices of all of creations’ beings are that “one sure element”. She claims that when the tiger and tigress meet for mating, “the blood beats beyond reason”. This is an interesting line, because, throughout the rest of ‘In Praise of Creation’, the speaker seems to evaluate creation, seeking reasoning behind the seeming order and rule of nature. However, here she admits that when it comes to mating, the “blood beats beyond reason” and one simply cannot understand the nature of it.


Stanza Five

Then quiet and birds folding their wings,
Man with his mind ajar.

After the mating is done, the speaker describes the “quiet” and the way the “birds [are] folding their wings”. She notices that after the few minutes of mating, “the new moon” still sits there, as it was, “waiting for years to be stared at here”. Once the mating has taken place, “The season sinks to satisfied things” and leaves man, once again, “with his mind ajar”. The speaker’s description of this mating reveals some parallels to what is likely personal experience, and thus, a human sexual experience. The use of the word “man” at the end of ‘In Praise of Creation’ further suggests this view. Thus far, man has not been mentioned in the poem. The speaker simply reflects upon nature and all of creation. At the end of the poem, after her description of the mating of the tiger and tigress as something which is “beyond reason” she mentions another human being whose mind is left “ajar”. This suggests the idea that even the instinctual act of sexual intercourse with another human being is subject to order and rule, and that even though it is an act that seems “beyond reason” it still leaves people with their minds open, pondering life, humanity, and creation just as the speaker does throughout this poem.

Allisa Corfman Poetry Expert
Allisa graduated with a degree in Secondary Education and English and taught World Literature and Composition at the high school level. She has always enjoyed writing, reading, and analysing literature.

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