Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem

by Leigh Hunt

 Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

Summary of Abou Ben Adhem

  • Popularity of “Abou Ben Adhem”: This poem was written by Leigh Hunt, a great English poet and critic. Abou Ben Adhem is a beautiful poem about love for humanity. It was first published in 1834. The poem speaks about a significant incident in the speaker’s life. It also illustrates how we can become God’s beloved people. The poem relates faith with love.
  • “Abou Ben Adhem” As Representative of Faith: The poem reflects the importance of loving fellow human beings. The poem begins when the speaker wakes up from a sound sleep. He looks around and discovers that his room is filled with a sweet sense of calmness. He sees an angel who is writing something in his golden book. Filled with surprise and peace, the speaker asks the angel what it is writing. Being compassionate, the angel replies that it is making the list of those who love God. The speaker asks if his name is included in the list. The angel replies that his name is not included.
    Unworried, he requests the angle to note his name as the one who loves God’s creatures. The angel writes and disappears. The next day, the same angel appears with a new list and shows it to the speaker. He is delighted to see his name on the top. The poet talks about the speaker’s unflinching faith. He also believes that God loves those who love His creation.
  • Major Themes in “Abou Ben Adhem”: Importance of love for mankind and faith are the major themes in this poem. The speaker describes his short encounter with an angel of God. The angel is compiling the names of blessed people who love God. When the speaker hears that his name is not written there, he requests the angel to write his name among those who love other human beings. Surprisingly, the next day, the angel returns with an amended list having the speaker’s name on the top. It is through this simple incident, the poet speaks about the importance of love for humanity. If we love His creation, we will be loved by God and rewarded. The speaker encourages us to care for the community and spread love in the world. When we display unselfish love, we can live a blessed life in this world as well as the afterlife.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Abou Ben Adhem”

Literary devices are very important elements of a text. They bring richness to the text and make the readers understand the hidden meaning of a poem or a story. Here is the analysis of some literary devices used in this poem.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /i/ in “Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom” and the sound of /o/ in “Abou spoke more low.”
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /n/ in “And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so” and the sound of /t/ in, “The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night.”
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /l/ in “Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom” and the sound of /d/ in “Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace” and the sound of /n/ in “The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night”.
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it continues in the next line. For example,

“Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “An angel writing in a book of gold”, “And showed the names whom love of God had blest” and “It came again with a great wakening light.”
  2. Simile: It is a figure of speech used to compare an object or a person with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. For example, the moonlight is compared with a lily in “Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom.”
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is a use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings different from their literal meanings. Here, “angel” and “light” symbolize spirituality.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Abou Ben Adhem”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “rest/blest”, “night/light” and “room/bloom.”
  2. Iambic Pentameter: It is a type of meter having five iambs per line. The poem follows iambic pentameter. For example, “and saw with in the moon light in his 
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABAB rhyme scheme, and this pattern continues till the end.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are two stanzas in this poem, with each having a different number of verses.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful while teaching children about the importance of kindness, love for God’s creation.

“The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.”