Darkness

Darkness

by Lord Byron

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum’d,
And men were gather’d round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other’s face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the world contain’d;
Forests were set on fire—but hour by hour
They fell and faded—and the crackling trunks
Extinguish’d with a crash—and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil’d;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and look’d up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnash’d their teeth and howl’d: the wild birds shriek’d
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl’d
And twin’d themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food.
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
All earth was but one thought—and that was death
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails—men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devour’d,
Even dogs assail’d their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish’d men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lur’d their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answer’d not with a caress—he died.
The crowd was famish’d by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heap’d a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they rak’d up,
And shivering scrap’d with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other’s aspects—saw, and shriek’d, and died—
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless—
A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirr’d within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp’d
They slept on the abyss without a surge—
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon, their mistress, had expir’d before;
The winds were wither’d in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish’d; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them—She was the Universe.

Summary of Darkness

  • Popularity of “Darkness”: Lord Byron, a great English poet, wrote Darkness. It is a narrative poem about destruction. It was first published in July 1816. Earlier was it was known as Year Without a Summer. The poem presents the speaker’s worries about the end of the world. It also describes the mortality of living beings through a vivid description of destruction. The poem details what death is and intertwined with the apocalyptic scene. Also, though the poem quotes a few references from the Bible, most Christians rejected it due to its anti-biblical comments and account.
  • “Darkness” As a Representative of Sorrow: The poem begins when the speaker refers to the events he attempts to detail as a dream. However, as the poem progresses, we realize it is not a dream. Starting with the changing appearance and direction of the natural objects, he describes how the earth is swinging out of control. The dread of darkness has stolen the passions of worldly pursuits, and even the hearts of men are frozen. Affected by this tragic shift, everyone is praying for the light to enjoy the bliss of life as they were enjoying before. He adds people survived the “watch fires” that enlightened almost all structures of human habitations. However, now the darkness has put the rich and the poor in the same row.
    While talking about the reaction of the people toward darkness, the poet says that they only want to be rid of this plague, which is costing their lives. Moreover, the animals are also sharing the same pain as they also lay among all other men and beasts. But soon, this union is broken when men become scavengers and hunt the creatures around them for their survival. When the hunted food supply runs out, they start killing each other, and the practice continues until the last man dies of hunger. Soon, the earth witnessed famine, leaving only two rivals behind. Later, even these two men die, turning the earth into a lifeless rock. Thus, darkness conquers the soul of the universe. The poem successfully predicts the World Wars, Cold War, and lack of unity between the countries, including the growing selfishness in humanity.
  • Major Themes in “Darkness”: Destruction, greed, and end of the world are the major themes underlined in this poem. Throughout the poem, the speaker tries to illustrate how darkness robs our peace, leaving the earth without any energy. Placing light as the center of human existence, he argues how everything, including love, joy, and warmth, loses their attraction in the face of the darkness. It not only kills humanity but also leads the greedy leaders to commit genocide. It does not leave until it reaches the end of the world. In other words, the poet wants us to realize the importance of love and argues that with every passing day, human beings are becoming self-centered and selfish. It is due to their selfish approach the world is heading toward destruction.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Darkness”

Literary devices are essential elements of a literary text. These devices bring richness to the text and make the readers understand the hidden meanings. Lord Byron has also made this poem superb by using figurative language. 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 /a/ in “Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl’d” and the sound of /i/ in “enormous city did survive.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /c/ in “With curses cast them down upon the dust,” and the sound of /f/ in “The flashes fell upon them; some lay down” and the sound of /l/ in “Blew for a little life, and made a flame”.
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /ng/ in “Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead” and the sound of /m/ in “Of aid from them—She was the Universe”.
  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,

“And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heap’d a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they rak’d up.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand”, “The flashes fell upon them; some lay down” and “The birds and beasts and famish’d men at bay.”
  2. Personification: Personification s to give human qualities to inanimate objects. Here the universe is personified in “Of aid from them—She was the Universe.”
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is a use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings different from their literal meanings. Here, the darkness symbolizes pain, destruction, and death.

 Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Darkness”

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. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  2. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. This is a long poem having eighty-two verses with no stanza break.

Quotes to be Used

The below lines can be quoted while talking about an unsettling and scary dream, and also when describing a desolate place.

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,