‘To a Star‘ by Lucretia Maria Davidson is a simple, impassioned poem that speaks about the nature of Heaven and the stars in the sky.
The speaker of ‘To a Star’ spends the poem gazing into the night sky considering the place of the star on the brow of heaven. She imagines what it’s like to be in heaven, how time passes as well as how the angels play music and create shelter. The star resides in a place that she would very much, if her soul were free, like to be. She determines at the end of the poem that she’s going to head straight there when she can.
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Structure of To a Star
‘To a Star‘ by Lucretia Maria Davidson is a five stanza poem that’s separated into sets of four lines. These lines follow a rhyme scheme of AABB CCDD, and so on, changing end sounds as the poet saw fit. They are also all close to the same length, between eight and ten syllables per line.
There are also examples of half-rhyme in the poem. Also known as slant or partial rhyme, half-rhyme is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line, or multiple lines of verse. For instance, the repetition of words ending in “-ing” in the third stanza. These include “hovering,” “string,” “sheltering,” and “wing”. Or, “swiftly” and “thee” in stanza five.
Poetic Techniques in To a Star
Davidson makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘To a Star’. These include anaphora, alliteration, simile, and enjambment. The first, anaphora, is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. This technique is often used to create emphasis. A list of phrases, items, or actions may be created through its implementation. Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “sparkling star” in the first line of the fifth stanza.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For instance, the transition between lines three and four of the second stanza.
A simile is a comparison between two unlike things that uses the words “like” or “as”. A poet uses this kind of figurative language to say that one thing is similar to another, not like metaphor, that it “is” another. For example, in the second stanza where the poet compares the star to “the pure lamp in Virtue’s shrine”. Through this comparison, she is connecting the star to personified virtue, as a character trait. It is lit by this particular star, therefore the star must be quite wonderful itself.
Analysis of To a Star
Thou brightly-glittering star of even,
Thou gem upon the brow of Heaven
Oh! were this fluttering spirit free,
How quick ‘t would spread its wings to thee.
In the first stanza of ‘To a Star’ the speaker begins by addressing one particular star in the sky. It is “brightly-glittering” and appears like a jewel or “gem” on the forehead of “Heaven”. It is a proud symbol and entryway into the realm of God. While looking at the star, the speaker is taken away by the thought a soul/spirit free enough to “spread its wings to thee”. She wishes that she had the ability to fly freely and openly, unrestrained by the earth, towards the star.
How calmly, brightly dost thou shine,
Like the pure lamp in Virtue’s shrine!
Sure the fair world which thou may’st boast
Was never ransomed, never lost.
In the second stanza the speaker goes on to say that the star is again “bright” but this time also “calm”. It shines as would the lamp from “Virtue’s shrine”. It is a thing of goodness, a representative of virtuous thought and choice. She alludes to the world of heaven in the next two lines. She imagines that up there, in the sky, things are different than they are on earth. It is a fairer, in beauty and in morality, a world that “Was never ransomed” or lost.
There, beings pure as Heaven’s own air,
Their hopes, their joys together share;
While hovering angels touch the string,
And seraphs spread the sheltering wing.
In the third stanza of “To a Star,’ the speaker’s imagination expands further and she thinks about what other beings reside in the same realm as the star. There must be “hovering angels” that play lutes and harps and that spread their wings and shelter for all those who live there. All the beings in that place would be “pure” and together share the same joys and hopes.
There cloudless days and brilliant nights,
Illumed by Heaven’s refulgent lights;
There seasons, years, unnoticed roll,
And unregretted by the soul.
The “cloudless days and brilliant nights” that pass in heaven are always bright. They are lit by the “refulgent lights,” or very brightly shinning, stars. It is a place very different from Earth in that time has no meaning. If it even passes, nothing changes. The seasons and years go by and no one takes note. Nothing is regretted by the soul.
Thou little sparkling star of even,
Thou gem upon an azure Heaven,
How swiftly will I soar to thee,
When this imprisoned soul is free!
In the final stanza of ‘To a Star,’ the speaker concludes by referring to the star again as a “gem” in heaven. She reiterates that which she professed in the first stanza. If she was free enough, her soul would fly up into the sky to be with the “little sparkling star”. When her soul is free, in the future once she meets her death, she intends to join the star in the sky.