Lights Out

Lights Out

by Edward Thomas

I have come to the borders of sleep,
The unfathomable deep
Forest where all must lose
Their way, however straight,
Or winding, soon or late;
They cannot choose.

Many a road and track
That, since the dawn’s first crack,
Up to the forest brink,
Deceived the travellers,
Suddenly now blurs,
And in they sink.

Here love ends,
Despair, ambition ends;
All pleasure and all trouble,
Although most sweet or bitter,
Here ends in sleep that is sweeter
Than tasks most noble.

There is not any book
Or face of dearest look
That I would not turn from now
To go into the unknown
I must enter, and leave, alone,
I know not how.

The tall forest towers;
Its cloudy foliage lowers
Ahead, shelf above shelf;
Its silence I hear and obey
That I may lose my way
And myself.

Summary of Lights Out

  • Popularity of “Lights Out”: Edward Thomas, a great English poet, novelist, and essayist wrote ‘Lights Out’. It was first published in 1917 and is a remarkable literary piece that addresses the simple theme. The poem dwells on the supremacy of sleep and how it pushes someone into an unknown realm. It also captures how everything becomes meaningless in the face of sleep.
  • “Lights Out” As a Representative of Death: As this poem is about the power of sleep, the poet also compares sleep with a deep, dark and dense forest, where sooner or later, everyone might lose their way. He believes that it is a place where human emotions such as love, ambitions, and affection end. Also, it casts an equal effect on all its subjects when it approaches. The path that leads to sleep is mysterious, yet it offers immense pleasure and calmness to its travelers. Therefore, the one who chooses to travel the path willingly surrenders it. By using the metaphor of sleep, the poet has beautifully sketched the process of death, which is inevitable. Every passing day takes us close to the brink of death where we have to go alone leaving the worldly pleasures behind.
  • Major Themes in “Lights Out”: Power of sleep, death, acceptance, and ambiguity are some of the major themes present in the poem. The poet has discussed sleep as powerful and unavoidable like death. Throughout the poem, he talks about entering into the realm of sleep and getting lost in the peace it offers. To him, it overthrows all human interests and activities as he submits himself to its sweet temptations.

 Analysis of Literary Devices in “Lights Out”

Literary devices are techniques the writers use to convey their ideas and thoughts and also to help readers understand the text at a more profound level. Edward Thomas has also employed some literary devices in this poem to show the power of sleep. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonants sounds in the same line such as the sound of /sh/ in “Ahead, shelf above shelf”.
  2. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Edward has used vivid images appealing to the sense of sight such as, “I have come to the borders of sleep”, “Ahead, shelf above shelf” and “Many a road and track.”
  3. Enjambment: It is defined as thought in a verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it rolls over to the next line. Such as,

“Here ends in sleep that is sweeter
Than tasks most noble.”

  1. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings different from literal meanings. “Border of sleep” symbolizes approaching death and “roads” and “tracks” are the symbols of life.
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects different in nature. The poet has used an extended metaphor of ‘sleep’ throughout the poem and compared it to ‘death’.
  3. Paradox: It is a statement that appears to be self-contradictory or silly, but may include a hidden The poet has used this device in the fourth line of the last paragraph, “Its silence I hear and obey.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonants sounds in the same line such as the sound of /s/ in “Here ends in sleep that is sweeter” and the sound of /l/ in “All pleasure and all trouble.”
  5. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. For example, “Deceived the travellers”, as if the road is human that can deceive someone.

 This short literary analysis shows that Edward has intelligently applied these literary elements to discuss the process of sleep.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “Lights Out”

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.

  • Stanza: Stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are six stanzas in this poem each comprising six lines.
  • Rhyme Scheme: The rhyme scheme followed by the entire poem is AABCCB.
  • Identical Rhyme: It refers to the repetition of the same words in the rhyme position. Edward has used identical rhyme in the third stanza where rhyming words are, “ends” and “ends.”
  • Near Rhyme: It is a type of rhyme in which either the vowel or consonants of stressed syllables are identical such as the rhyming words in the third stanza are, “trouble”, “noble”, “bitter” and “sweeter.”

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used when telling a story with mysterious elements. These lines can also be used to discuss any personal experience of visiting a strange and unknown place.

Many a road and track
That, since the dawn’s first crack,
Up to the forest brink,
Deceived the travellers,
Suddenly now blurs,
And in they sink