The poem uses short lines and clear language to describe a night sky. It’s something that the speaker loves and is relishing, throughout the poem’s lines, looking at. Readers should walk away from ‘Stars’ with the same kind of appreciation for the night sky that Teasdale has.
‘Stars’ by Sara Teasdale is a short and simple poem that allows the reader to appreciate the beauty of a night sky.
The speaker spends the first lines of the poem describing where she is and what the stars above her head look like. They are white and shades of red, extending farther than she can see. She watches them and describes them as “stately” and “still” while also as “marching” across their course. The speaker appreciates this moment out in nature in a way that each reader should as they move through the lines.
You can read the full poem here.
Stanzas One and Two
Alone in the night
On a dark hill
White and topaz
And misty red;
In the first stanza of ‘Stars,’ the speaker begins by describing how she was standing outside, at night, among some pine trees on a “dark hill.” At this point, it’s unclear whether or not the tone is going to be uplifting or depressing. The reader won’t be sure what kind of situation she’s in. The speaker notes that the heavens are full of stars that reach out through the sky over her head. She describes them as “White and topaz” and “misty red.” This is a wonderful example of imagery. It should transport the reader to the hillside along with the speaker. It’s easy to imagine exactly what she’s seeing.
Stanzas Three and Four
Myriads with beating
Hearts of fire
I watch them marching
Stately and still,
In the next stanza, the speaker says that the stars are “Myriads,” meaning they are numerous. They are “beating / hearts of fire,” a wonderful example of personification and a metaphor. She’s trying to convey how alive these stars seem to her. There is nothing, throughout time, that can “vex” (trouble) or “tire” these lights.
The speaker returns to her hillside and notes how she watches them “marching,” or moving, through their courses in their sky. They are “Stately,” an adjective that suggests they are proud and full. There is also an interesting contrast presented in her depiction of them as “marching” and “still.” They are moving but also appear still at the same time.
And I know that I
Of so much majesty.
In the final stanza of ‘Stars,’ the speaker says that she is “honored” to see “so much majesty.” This simple poem comes to an end. It should leave readers in a peaceful mood, more appreciative of the natural world than they were when they began the poem. The speaker does not use any complex language throughout the five stanzas, something common to Teasdale’s verse, but also something that is quite effective in a poem like this.
Structure and Form
‘Stars’ by Sara Teasdale is a five-stanza poem that is separated into five sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a rhyme scheme of ABCB, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. The lines do not maintain a steady metrical pattern, instead of varying between eight and three beats per line. Mostly, they are around the same length though, with the first and third lines longer than the second and fourth.
Throughout ‘Stars,’ Teasdale makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two of the first stanza as well as lines three and four of the second stanza.
- Alliteration: can be seen when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “Spicy and still” in line four of the first stanza and “heaven” and “head” in stanza two.
- Imagery: can be seen when the poet uses particularly effective and interesting descriptions. For example, “White and topaz / And misty red.”
The tone is direct and appreciative. The speaker uses simple language to clearly describe and appreciate the stars in the sky above her.
The purpose is to celebrate the natural world, or at least this specific part of it, and relish the beauty of eternity. The speaker is delving into the power of these stars and the way that they, throughout time, have remained unvexed.
The themes at work in this poem are nature and eternity. The speaker is looking up at the stars and imagining their strength and the millennia that they’ve been present. They take her out of her small life and allow her to consider another world.
The speaker is unknown. It’s likely someone who has an appreciation for nature before the night in question. They are able to be outside and consider it with a clear and loving mind.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Stars’ should also consider reading some other Sara Teasdale poems. For example:
- ‘To a Star’ by Lucretia Maria Davidson – a simple, impassioned poem that speaks about the nature of Heaven and the stars in the sky.
- ‘Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art’ by John Keats – uses a star as an image of steadfastness in order to depict how true a lover’s heart is.
- ‘To the Evening Star’ by William Blake – presents the conflict between innocence and experience. It also talks about the goddess Venus and how she beautifies nature during the evening.