Analysis of To the Evening Star by William Blake


William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His visual artistry led 21st-century critic Jonathan Jones to proclaim him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced”. In 2002, Blake was placed at number 38 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. He produced a diverse and symbolically rich work of art, which embraced the imagination as "the body of God" or "human existence itself".



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Line by line analysis:

Thou fair-haired angel of the evening,

Fair-haired angel of the evening – metaphor/assonance (creates a glamorous tone)
Fair –haired angel – visual imagery
Thou(you) - personification

The evening star, Venus is personified giving it a divine quality. The image fair haired angel suggests not only the beauty (fair haired) and the power of protection and healing (angel). Evening star is considered as the Greek goddess Venus. Venus is a Roman goddess of love, beauty and fertility. The poet seems starting a prayer to the god by praising her beauty and her power of protection.  


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!
Smile on our loves, 

The sun rests on the mountain – visual/kinesthetic image
Bright torch of love/ radiant crown/ our evening bed – metaphor
The sun rests /thy - personification

At the end of the day of hard labor and toil, after the sun set, the appearance of evening star soothes people with its beauty and glamour. Poet requests to light the bright torch of love and wear her radiant crown smiling upon the tired ones and their beloveds.  The bright torch of love and radiant crown is suggestive of the bright glimmer it spreads. The personified actions of the sun and evening star creates kinesthetic images which the reader can see movements.

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.

Thou/flower shuts eyes – personification
Blue curtains/silver dew/sweet eyes – visual imagery
Draw blue curtains/ shuts eyes – kinesthetic imagery
Blue curtains/sweet eyes – metaphor

Poet requests Venus to scatter evening dew on withering flowers. Blue curtains and silver dew creates a beautiful visual image in the evening time. Blue curtains suggest the color of the sky after the sunset. Flower is personified giving human quality as shutting eyes. Sweet eyes may suggest the flower in full bloom which is now going to be withered. Scattering dew on the flower may be suggestive to sooth it or keep it alive for some more time.


Let thy west wind sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And wash the dusk with silver.

West wind sleep – personification
Speak silence – oxymoron
Glimmering eyes – visual imagery / metaphor

Poet request the evening star to put the west wind asleep making the environment silent (If the lake make ripples on the lake it would disturb the silence) and make the dusk (mildly dark evening) color in silver with the reflection of the star on the lake. That shows that the poet believes the evening star possesses power to stop a natural force and make the environment more picturesque. Speak silence suggests celebrating the beauty of the silence to make the scene enchanting. Glimmering eyes means eyes covered by tears; that may be the reflection of the star on water creating such image. 

Soon, full soon,
Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
And the lion glares through the dun forest.

Wolf/lion – symbols of night and morning
Wolf rage/lion glare/ dun forest – metaphors

Poet understands the fact that every power and beauty do not last long. The evening star has to depart when the night falls and during the day time. During this period of time the people would not receive the protection of Venus. Wolf rages wide suggests the falling of night and lion glares may be suggestive of dawn. Poet suggests the transitory nature of everything and the vulnerability of humans before the evil forces suggested by wolf rage and lion glare.
 



The fleeces of our flocks are covered with
Thy sacred dew; protect with them with thine influence. 

Although the evening star departs after its short appearance, the holy effect created remains on the devoted ones. Poet requests the star to protect the innocents from dangerous forces with her holy power during her absence. Sacred dew brings the poem a holy effect after the prayer is done to her by the poet. In this poem the power of the evening star is celebrated over the nature and human life. It is seen as a guardian as well as a force that beautifies the environment. 

Hope you have got a clear understanding about the poem. Some find this poem to be little bit hard as it possesses a depth with regard to the background. If you need any clarification let's discuss it in the comment section.  

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