On The Beach At Night: Poem - Summary & Analysis

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On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky. Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading.
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters, the Pleiades.
From the beach the child holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.
Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in apparition.
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge.
They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall shim out again.
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall again shine.
Then dearest child mournest thou only for Jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars? Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter,
Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters, the Pleiades.


      Introduction. The poem, On The Beach At Night, published in 1871, belongs to the family of ‘sea drift’ poems of Leaves of Grass. The poem introduces Whitman as an artist, imagist, optimist, mystic and a philosopher. It describes a simple scene of a father and a child standing on the beach. The poem is impregnated with the mysticism and philosophy of the poet. James E. Miller appropriately worded this philosophy as: “The drama of the dark clouds obscuring the bright star is however, a recurring symbolic event in Leaves of Grass .... It is clear that this simple but vivid celestial image signified for the poet the rebirth that is inherent in death. By their very nature - the star in its fixedness and the cloud in its transcend - these heavenly objects symbolize the triumph of the eternal, the illusoriness of death...”

      Summary. The philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita is inherent in the poem On The Beach At Night. An Indian reader feels at home with this thought in the poem. The human body is mortal. The soul is immortal. That is the truth which Whitman also sends home. He selects two human beings to prove this logical truth. The child represents innocence, curiosity and ignorance. It is ignorant of worldly matters.

      The father represents intelligence, wisdom and maturity. In a simple understandable language, he explains the mysteries of the world to the child. The child may symbolize an average commoner who is emotionally disturbed by the minor calamities in this world. The father may be the poet himself, advocating the ways of the world to mankind, and asking them to be undeterred by the problems.

      A child is standing on the beach, gazing at the ocean and the sky. It starts weeping on seeing dark clouds loom large, engulfing Jupiter and other stars. The child feels everything is lost and there is no hope. The father kisses away the tears. He consoles the child saying the clouds are a temporary passing phase. They can never sully the radiant stars and the planets. The planets, the celestial beings are immortal. Clouds are temporary. It looks as though the poet tells the common man not to worry or make much of the miseries of this world as they are short-lived. The cloud may even mean the cloud of death. The cloud of death can conquer the human body but not the soul. The soul is something immortal. It can never die.

      The father asks the child to be patient. With patience, it can again see the millions of stars twinkling in the sky. It can rejoice seeing ‘Jupiter’ and the ‘Pleiades’ again in the ether. The poet tells mankind that problems are temporary. They will pass off giving scope for joy and radiance.

      The father confirms that the child is mourning only for the loss from sight of Jupiter and the ‘Pleiades’. By a simple talk of a father and a child, the poet has unpacked the philosophy of life before the reader.


1. Watching, silently weeps Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears.

      These lines from the poem shows the father consoling his little daughter who is shedding tears. The father and the daughter are standing on the beach gazing at the open sky and the vast expanse of waters of the sea. The child is amazed at what she sees. She looks at Jupiter and the Pleiades. She is filled with fear and remorse, when she sees huge clouds lapping away the stars and planets. With tear-filled eyes, she looks at her father with her question in them. The father kisses away those tears with loving words. He asks her not to weep. He assures that the clouds are a passing phase. They can never tarnish the beauty of planets in the sky. The poet in other words clarifies that the problems, the miseries, the death, in this world are a passing phase. They can never touch the soul which is immortal.

2. Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, the days and nights, passing away)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter,
Longer than Sun or any revolving satellite, or the radiant sisters, the Pleiades.

      A child and her father stand on the beach observing the sky and the sea. The child is frightened when it sees the planets, Jupiter, the Pleiades gobbled up by the dark clouds. It is in tears. The father full of affection kisses away the tears of the child. He assures her that the clouds are just a passing phase. They can never sully the luster or radiance of the stars and planets. They will emerge radiant as the clouds pass off.

      After explaining this, the poet takes the reader to a higher plane. He suggests that there is something else more immortal than days, nights, the Jupiter, the stars, the Pleiades, the planets-something which can never be questioned by time. And that is the Immortal Soul. He pronounces that death like the cloud is a passing phase. It can never kill the soul. The lines reveal that the soul is supreme. It also reflects on the poet’s belief in Divine Force. Thus in simple words he explains the mystifying factor of life.


      In, On The Beach At Night, what appears to be a painted picture of a child and her father on the beach at night comes to life, full of meaning. The child standing with its father on the beach is bewildered at the huge sea, and vastness of the sky. She looks towards the East. All mankind as it were turn towards East - a source of light and inspiration. Spiritualism as it were emanates from the East. It is getting dark. All of a sudden the sky is overcast with dark ravenous clouds. The child, simple and innocent as it is, is filled with fear and tears. It thinks that the sky with its Jupiter, and the Pleiades are swallowed by the clouds. The father consoles the child saying that Jupiter, the stars, the planets, the Pleiades, the sun, the moon are permanent fixtures. They are immortal. They can never be sullied by the clouds.

      The child symbolizes the innocent mankind. The father refers to maturity, learning and wisdom. He asks the childs not to worry. He kisses away the tears and whisks away the fear of the child. He assures the child that the cloud of death can never have its blow on the soul. The soul is immortal. The poet carries the reader to a higher philosophic plane here, l ie believes in the supremacy of the Divine Being. He clearly advocates the immortality of the soul. Just as the planets and stars would emerge with radiance and luster, so also with the soul which emerges lustrous. While talking about the stars and planets, the poet emphasizes that there is something supreme above all that and that is the Immortal soul - the Divine soul. He asks the child to have patience to wait till the clouds move away. The soul is something superior and lasts longer than the stars, planets or the universe. Patience alone reveals the truth. The truth is the awareness of the immortality of the soul. It is omnipresent-like the Divine soul- which reigns supreme.

      The reader like the child is overwhelmed at the truth which he realizes as he probes deep into the recesses of the lines of the poem.

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