Night: Poem by William Blake - Summary and Analysis

Also Read


The sun descending in the west,
The evening star does shine;
The birds are silent in their nest,
And I must seek for mine.
The moon, like a flower
In heaven’s high bower,
With silent delight,
Sits and smiles on the night.

Farewell, green fields and happy grove,
Where flocks have ta’en delight.
Where lambs have nibbled, silent move
The feet of angels bright;
Unseen they pour blessing,
And joy without ceasing,
On each bud and blossom,
And each sleeping bosom.

They look in every thoughtless nest
Where birds are covered warm;
They visit caves of every beast,
To keep them all from harm:
If they see any weeping
That should have been sleeping,
They pour sleep on their head,
And sit down by their bed.

When wolves and tigers howl for prey,
They pitying stand and weep;
Seeking to drive their thirst away,
And keep them from the sheep.
But, if they rush dreadful,
The angels, most heedful,
Receive each mild spirit,
New worlds to inherit.

And there the lion’s ruddy eyes
Shall flow with tears of gold:
And pitying the tender cries,
And walking round the fold:
Saying: ‘‘Wrath by His meekness,
And, by His health, sickness,
Are driven away
From our immortal day.

‘‘And now beside thee, bleating lamb,
I can lie down and sleep,
Or think on Him who bore thy name,
Graze after thee, and weep.
For, washed in life’s river,
My bright mane for ever
Shall shine like the gold,
As I guard o’er the fold.’’

Summary and Analysis

Introduction :

       Night is one of the finest poems of Blake. Ignoring the grammatical defects, we must appreciate how the poet brings his idea into our mind without any intricate reasoning. The nucleus of the poem lies in the idea that divine care and concern guards all innocent creatures and an eternal life of rich happiness awaits all of them. Night is there but even the night does not put the innocent creatures to harm for there come the god-sent angels to rescue and, preserve them.

The angels of 'Night' as Blake draws them, are not passive and silent angels but active, though at nigh. They are the angels of joy, protection and blessing.
Night: Songs of Innocence

Summary :

      We cannot help agreeing with Swinburne when he celebrates the poem as overwhelmingly felicitous. This loveliness depends not merely upon the portrayal of the new world or walking angels but also on the magnanimity and profundity of the poet's thought. The first stanza exposes a fine picture of moon-blanched night. The simile renders the picture lovelier and more magnificent. The splendour in comparing the moon with a flower is more to be felt than expressed. The speaker bids farewell to the green fields and groves where the lambs had been grazing so long. The silent fields change to become the carpet where angels tread softly, pouring blessing and joy on each bud and flower as well as on each sleeping creature. They visit the silent nests of birds, caves of beasts and protect them all. They charm into sleep those who weep.

      But they are not mighty herculean angels. If they find some ferocious animals like the wolves or tigers howling for their prey, they stand apart and weep in sympathy for the innocent prey. They try their utmost to quench the thirst of the carnivores and keep the sheep harmless. But when the tiger or wolf turn ferocious and kills the innocent lambs, the angels take the souls of the innocent creatures to the abode of God where the newly arrived souls are out of all kind of danger. This 'new world' is not a place of conflicts or disorder. There, even the lions and tigers are pitiful and kind-hearted and they condescend to guard the folds of sheep and lambs. In that immortal world of God they sing in praise of God. His meekness and health repel the wrath and wordly sickness. In that immortal world of God they sing in praise of God. His meekness and health repel the wrath and worldly SIckness. In that new world the lion and sheep sleep together, graze together and are sympathetic to cach other. This change of lion into a harmless animal is due to its immersion in the pure waters of Life's river in heaven. After this wash in the pure water his terrible mane will glitter like gold as he protects the fold of sheep there.

Vivid Picture of Angels :

      The angels of 'Night' as Blake draws them, are not passive and silent angels but active, though at nigh. They are the angels of joy, protection and blessing. They console the weeping creatures and charm them into slumber. Their presence is felt because of the poet's deft strokes. But the angels are incapable of restraining the animals which are savagely cruel. They do their best to save the sheep from the tigers and wolves that run in search of their prey, but fail to protect the innocent creatures when the tigers and wolves are too ferocious to be controlled. However, when these wild animals slay the innocent ones the angels take their spirits and bring them into the new world where pity, love, peace and mercy are the predominant element in the nature of all objects.

Is Innocence Threatened?

      The questions that come to our mind are; (i) Why does cruelty and killing reign in the field of Innocence? (ii) Why are the angels unable to protect the innocent creatures from the claws of ferocious ones? Now the answer is, although cruelty and brutality dominate the field, the innocent not really at stake. It is true that they fall prey to ferocious animals; but what is more conspicuous is that they are redeemed later and are assigned a new world marked by equality, fraternity and peace. Again it is true that the angels are inactive at the time when innocence is jeopardised. We must also bear in mind that they themselves are innocent and are not experienced enough to exercise authority over the ferocious animals. But by and large, the ultimate victory is that of innocence as against the temporary victory of the tooth and claws on earth. Even the lion turns a vegetarian and humble, harmless and weeping creature! The victory one achieves on earth is not lasting: but the victory and triumph we attain in God's New World immortalise us. The idea is similar to the one in the Little Black Boy.


      We cannot escape noticing the grammatical faults such as "Silent moves the Feet of angels bright", "They visit caves of every beast", "They pour sleep on their head" and so on. For the sake of poetic fidelity it is a prerogative of a poet that, if need be, he may ignore the structure that may hinder the even flow of his thought.

Symbolic Overtones:

      Blake and later W.B. Yeats (the so called' last Romantic') are the most celebrated pursuers of symbolism. There are two occasions in the poem where Blake achieves remarkable effect. The first passage comes in the fifth stanza, lines 33-40, "And there the lions ruddy eyes..... From our immortal day". The lion, as we know, is a ferocious animal. It pounces upon its prey most savagely and tears off its flesh barbarously. But in the new world he undergoes an utter, unbelievable change. He is not lion at all, we feel. In his metamorphosis into a noble, weak creature, the Life's river plays an important part. It may have an association with the 'River Jordan', that 'transhumanised' Christ and empowered him with divine insight. After this baptism Christ was not the 'Son of a Carpenter', instead he turns, because of his intrinsic awareness and divine intuition, to be the 'Son of God.' Thus Christ's life after baptism in Jordan changed wonderfully and raised him from the human level. Almost analogous to that, in 'Night', the lion having a wash in life's river's is ennobled and mounted to the level of a guardian (creature?) and he protects the sheep. His ruddy eyes are overwhelmed with tears of gold and he sings in praise of God. Instead of cruelty he inculcates the virtues of pity and his 'howl' for prey is changed into a song in praise of God. Moreover, his mane is glittering like gold - an unmistakable symbol of purity in Blake's poetry.

Previous Post Next Post