William Blake is popular for his poetry collection “Songs of Innocence and of Experience.” In this prophetic work, the poet depicts the nature of creation as well as the nature of the Almighty. The poems included in this volume reflect Blake’s keen sense of poetic expression and extraordinary imagination. His pictorial representation of the poem is also an added gift for the readers. However, in this poem, ‘To the Evening Star’ the poet employs similar techniques to throw light on the theme of innocence vs experience as he does in his “Songs of Experience” poems.
This poem centers on the evening star. However, the poet, more specifically, refers to the goddess Venus. Venus is also the second planet in the solar system and a sister planet of earth. It appears just after dusk. According to the poet, the “fair-hair’d angel” of the evening, while the sun rests on the mountains, puts her radiant crown and ruler over the landscape with her silvery aura. Moreover, when the night is about to over, the star, as a guardian spirit of the evening, protects every creature and objects with her “sacred dew” engendered from the tears of the goddess.
The poem consists of a total of 14 lines. The lines do not rhyme together. For this reason, this poem is in free verse. However, the poet maintains the flow of the poem by using internal rhyming. The movement of the poem does not halt for a single moment for these internally rhyming lines. Apart from that, each line of the poem contains 10 syllables. After dividing the syllables into five units or feet, one can find that the stress falls on the second syllable of each foot. It means, in each line, there are five iambs. So, the overall poem is composed in iambic pentameter.
Blake begins this poem, ‘To the Evening Star’ with a metaphor. Here, the poet uses an allusion to the Roman goddess of beauty, fertility, and desire, Venus. Along with that, in this metaphor, the poet compares the evening star to an angel having fair hair. In the next line, the poet uses personification. Readers can find the use of enjambment in the third and fourth lines. This device is present throughout the poem. Thereafter, in “silvery dew”, the poet makes use of metonymy. Moreover, the phrases, “west wind” and “speak silence” contain alliteration. Lastly, the poem ends with a rhetorical exclamation.
Blake employs the themes of innocence vs experience, natural beauty, light, darkness, passion, divinity, and purity in this poem. The most important theme of this poem innocence vs experience. Here, the poet depicts the theme in the last few lines of the poem. Thereafter, the setting displays the theme of natural beauty, specifically the nocturnal one. The interplay of light and darkness, though implicit in the poem, is another important theme of this work. Last but not least, the divine grace and the inherent purity of nature also gets highlighted in this poem.
THOU fair-hair’d angel of the evening,
Now, whilst the sun rests on the mountains, light
Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!
The poem begins with a direct reference to the evening star as an angel. The poetic persona of the poem thinks the star is a “fair-haired” angel who protects the nocturnal beauty of nature. When the sun sets behind the mountain, the star appears in the sky. According to the poet, the star lights the “bright torch of love” at that time. So, the evening star is a symbol of love too. Moreover, the speaker requests the angel to put on her “radiant crown” and smile upon their evening bed. Here, the poet metaphorically compares the star to a monarch who protects the world in the evening.
Smile on our loves, and while thou drawest the
Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes
In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
Thereafter, the speaker tells the star to smile at their loved ones. It seems that the angelic star becomes pleased to see her children in happiness. Moreover, the poet says the evening star draws the “blue curtains of the sky” and scatters the “silvery dew” on every flower. When the flowers shut their eyes in timely sleep after sunset, the evening star blesses them with her “silvery dew”. Apart from that, the speaker requests the star to let her west wind sleep on the lake. As the west wind is a symbol of destruction, he requests the angel to calm the spirit of the wind. Thereafter, he tells the evening star to speak silently with her “glimmering eyes” to heighten the scenic beauty of the landscape.
And wash the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon,
Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
And then the lion glares through the dun forest:
The fleeces of our flocks are cover’d with
Thy sacred dew: protect them with thine influence!
In the last section of the poem, ‘To the Evening Star’, the poet requests the angel of the evening to wash the dusk with silver. From this section, the poem takes a quick turn to the theme of experience. However, the star is going to disappear in the night sky very soon. Then the wolf and the lion, symbols of experience, will come out and flare through the dark forest. The poet knows her absence will lead the dark forces to capture the landscape that, a few moments ago, was drenching in purity and divine radiance. However, at last, he requests the angel to protect the “fleeces of our flocks” with her “sacred dew.” It seems as long as her influence is on her naive creatures, the dark forces can inflict no harm on them.
William Blake, one of the early romantics, viewed nature in a different vein. His use of symbolism as well as religious ideas, makes his poetic works stand apart from a greater volume of romantic poetry. Moreover, his use of vivid imagery is another important aspect of his poems. Blake’s “Song of Innocence and of Experience” presents the nature of creation and God who created it. The themes present in this work get reflected in one of the best Blake poems, ‘To the Evening Star’. Though it portrays the evening star in divine light, it implicitly glorifies the role of God, as a protector and preserver.
Here is a list of some poems which contain similar themes present in Blake’s ‘To the Evening Star’.
- The Light of Stars by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – This poem describes the state of the night sky and the Ancient Roman deity, Mars.
- Song: Go and catch a falling star by John Donne – It’s one of the best John Donne poems and here he uses a metaphysical conceit of a “falling star.”
- Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art by John Keats – In this one of the best-known Keats poems, the poet uses the metaphor of a “star” to portray the theme of love’s constancy.
- It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free by William Wordsworth – In this sonnet, the poet expresses his fascination with the innocence of children.
You can also read about 10 of the Best Poems about Stars and the Universe.