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Rhapsody On A Windy Night Analysis

Author: Poetry of T.S. Eliot Type: Poetry Views: 2365

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Twelve o'clock.

Along the reaches of the street

Held in a lunar synthesis,

Whispering lunar incantations

Dissolve the floors of memory

And all its clear relations,

Its divisions and precisions,

Every street lamp that I pass

Beats like a fatalistic drum,

And through the spaces of the dark

Midnight shakes the memory

As a madman shakes a dead geranium.Half-past one,

The street lamp sputtered,

The street lamp muttered,

The street lamp said, "Regard that woman

Who hesitates towards you in the light of the door

Which opens on her like a grin.

You see the border of her dress

Is torn and stained with sand,

And you see the corner of her eye

Twists like a crooked pin."The memory throws up high and dry

A crowd of twisted things;

A twisted branch upon the beach

Eaten smooth, and polished

As if the world gave up

The secret of its skeleton,

Stiff and white.

A broken spring in a factory yard,

Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left

Hard and curled and ready to snap.Half-past two,

The street lamp said,

"Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter,

Slips out its tongue

And devours a morsel of rancid butter."

So the hand of a child, automatic,

Slipped out and pocketed a toy that was running along the quay.

I could see nothing behind that child's eye.

I have seen eyes in the street

Trying to peer through lighted shutters,

And a crab one afternoon in a pool,

An old crab with barnacles on his back,

Gripped the end of a stick which I held him.Half-past three,

The lamp sputtered,

The lamp muttered in the dark.The lamp hummed:

"Regard the moon,

La lune ne garde aucune rancune,

She winks a feeble eye,

She smiles into corners.

She smoothes the hair of the grass.

The moon has lost her memory.

A washed-out smallpox cracks her face,

Her hand twists a paper rose,

That smells of dust and old Cologne,

She is alone

With all the old nocturnal smells

That cross and cross across her brain."

The reminiscence comes

Of sunless dry geraniums

And dust in crevices,

Smells of chestnuts in the streets,

And female smells in shuttered rooms,

And cigarettes in corridors

And cocktail smells in bars."The lamp said,

"Four o'clock,

Here is the number on the door.


You have the key,

The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair,


The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall,

Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life."The last twist of the knife.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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Hasn't anyone noticed that this is a poem about a man alone on an autumn night feeling disconnected and a desperate and in need of forgetting, frequenting a prostitute's premises until the wee hours? Do you really have to go into "industrialized... personification... complex imagery or Rhianna?
I think this is awfully clear.

| Posted on 2015-02-07 | by a guest

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"I like my town... With a little drop of poison..."

| Posted on 2014-10-31 | by a guest

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this peom is pointless and i hat english but thanks to you guys i now have a much better understanding of the peom kepp up the great work guys!

| Posted on 2014-05-13 | by a guest

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Houses and cars are not cheap and not everybody can buy it. But, credit loans are created to support different people in such cases.

| Posted on 2013-03-01 | by a guest

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In this poem, eliot captures the atomisation of the individual in the modern industrialised world. It mirrors his own struggle with modernity at the time. I related to this poem immediately as a 16 year old. Modernity, is often overwhelming, especially to younger people. Eliot\'s writing cannot escape the fact that it was part of his becoming as a human being, despite anything said to the contrary. There is a Realism to Eliot that is tough and unflinching, almost and sometimes even monstrous. And while his poems are often filled with harsh imagery, imagery of death and atomisation and despair, there is always at base, the human being who struggles to comprehend, and make a living.

| Posted on 2012-04-23 | by a guest

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thank you so much for this information!
i am so grateful, i would be unable to further annotate this poem without your help!

| Posted on 2010-05-02 | by a guest

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first of all, when studying this poem you should notice Eliot's deliberate choice of unpoetic diction and lexicon and remember that he is attempting to create a new type of poetry which reflects the complexity of modern living.
Also, it would be wrong to simply assume that he is expressing his own thoughts and feelings directly, considering his critical pronouncements that poetry should be impersonal, so if you choose to argue that these are his thoughts and feelings, it would require very close reading of the poem and a careful linking of this to his biographical information.
the allusions and repititions add to the texture of the poem and create a sense of dislocation, distance and monotomy in the listener. ELiot demanded a lot from his reader and often this meant deliberately attempting to frustrate them via diction and stylistic choices in the same way that language's inadequecy frustrated him as an artist.
notice the images of deracination; death proliferates ELiot's poems.
also,time imagery is important, it symbolises an omnipotent force that has replaced God in the modern world as everybody structures their lives around and become slaves to this invisibile force rather than a religion.
the lamp is symbolic because it could be indicative of Eliot's neurosis and mental breakdown that he went through around this time, the lamp talks and issues imperatives in the final stanza. CF this to the description of 'a' madman and you could argue that this collapse of inner rationality is a condition of the modern age as internal rationality gives way to the highly routinised way of life and renders it needless.

| Posted on 2010-04-10 | by a guest

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‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’ demonstrates the protagonist’s alienation from society by using complex imagery to evoke a response from the audience. The hero is walking, alone on a street and neglected from society. The use of personification, “the street lamp sputtered, muttered” reiterates the idea of his loneliness and that he is an estrangement towards society. The protagonist is just a wondering soul, crossing the roads of hollowness, because to him his home is lonesome and empty. The wonderer lives in a hollow place where a single “toothbrush hangs on the wall.” As Prufrock does, the persona compares his life to everyday items. He is deserted on the streets, and a lonely aura emits, through his eyes, the world is suffering from loneliness, which slowly decays and eventually, communication dies from this world.
The persona escapes into his memories whilst on a walk and is similar to the escape of Prufrock makes. His imaginative journey on the midnight walk, alone is his dream and that his mind is confused and confounded. Similarly to Prufrock, the persona experiences reality and fantasy, like a melody from a song with its highs and lows as suggested from both poems, “rhapsody” and “love song”. The stream of consciousness is clearly shown to the responder, which gives it the smooth feel. This is juxtaposed by the dark and deathly imagery “fatalistic drum” and “sunless dry geraniums.” The persona flees from reality as he fears the outside world, fear of change and fear of judgment. His fantasy comes to an abrupt end when “the last twist of the knife” strikes him.

| Posted on 2009-08-17 | by a guest

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good job man! thank you so much i would fail eng without you...

| Posted on 2009-03-28 | by a guest

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tigrex you wouldnt happen to be from shs right?

| Posted on 2009-03-11 | by a guest

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tigrex you wouldnt happen to be from shs right?

| Posted on 2009-03-11 | by a guest

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There is a hidden meaning in the poem - 'As a madman shakes a dead geranium' he relates to Chris Brown beating up Rihanna this can be closely related to Tigrex who is about to get beaten up. Yes thats right im gonna get you!

| Posted on 2009-03-10 | by a guest

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Rhapsody on a Windy Night is one of T.S. Eliot’s most well known poems because it describes the desecration of the world and expresses his response to life. The entire poem is structured like a journey as we are taken to the view of a possibly drunken person taking a four-hour long walk along the streets at midnight. During this walk, the narrator obtains a number of memories and thoughts that all contain a concealed meaning, which Eliot effectively conveys to readers.
The first stanza introduces the scene and tone of the poem. We are given the time as “Twelve o’clock”, ie. midnight, which is in a sense the witching hours of the day. The walk the narrator embarks on is dramatised in the next few lines as the street is described as “Held under a lunar synthesis whispering lunar incantations.” This personification of the moon suggests that the moon is possibly acting like a witch casting a spell on the street, allowing the narrator to abolish all rational thoughts and enter an almost dream-like sequence in which a series of irrational thoughts and memories arise. The first mentioning of a “street lamp” introduces many different ideas. To begin with, the time of the day is midnight, the darkest time of the day. This sets the tone to a rather bleak and dark view of life but the street lamp acts as small patches of light in the street suggesting hope. These small patches of light are also a catalyst for a sequence of thoughts, memories and images that we are presented with throughout the entire poem. Thus in a way, the street lamp forms a significant motif as it represents hope while stimulates all the thoughts the narrator conjures up. The line “Beats like a fatalistic drum” gives us the first insight that the narrator may be in a drunken haze causing a possible headache, which explains all the hallucinations though this is never confirmed. The last lines of the first stanza introduces the sense of pandemonium that we should expect throughout the rest of the poem as Eliot compares the narrator’s state of mind with how “a madman shakes a dead germanium.” A germanium is a flower that is adept at survival yet the fact that it is dead further emphasises the chaotic state of the narrator’s mind. The technique of juxtaposition is used here since on the one hand, Eliot illustrates an external and rational landscape of a street while on the other hand; an internal and irrational landscape of chaotic thoughts is suggested.
The second stanza takes the time to one and a half hours later. The repetition of the word “street-lamp” brings us back to the motif of a catalyst for thoughts. Onomatopoeia and rhyme is used here with “sputtered…muttered.” This creates a rhythm of walking that reminds us that the narrator is still walking down a street. The street-lamp is also personificated to speak as it evokes the first of a series of thoughts. For the first time in the poem, another person is mentioned, a woman in fact. However, even though the sense of isolation and loneliness is broken, this woman is suggested to be seductive giving us an idea that the narrator has had bad experiences with women and relationships in the past. This is further exemplified in the last line words like “Twists” and “crooked pin” which create a sense of emptiness and agony.
The third stanza depicts another thought or memory, this time with two very desperate and pessimistic images of life. The first one is of a “twisted branch” that is eaten up and is compared to the world giving up “the secret of its skeleton.” This suggests that life simply causes pain and wears people down. The repetitive use of the word twisted evokes pain upon the reader and the fact that the world’s skeleton is “Stiff and white” implies that the world has no goodness and that there is no miracle of “magic” involved. The whole idea of the skeleton can even be viewed to be symbolic of the fact that the world is hollow with no inside, flesh or soul and that it is dead like the skeleton of any other dead creature. The second image we are given is the “broken spring in a factory yard.” This metaphor denotes people’s lives as broken and pushed to the limit. It portrays the vulnerability of humanity as the broken spring is only hanging on by rust. This reference to rust shows the corrosive nature of life and brings us back to how life wears us down. The last words “ready to snap” is very striking as it further shows the fragile nature of life and suggests that humanity is on the verge of breaking.
The next stanza takes us forward once more in time, as it is now half-past two. This time we are given three desperate images that further demonstrate Eliot’s view of life, all which are introduced with the motif of the street-lamp personification again. These images are the cat, the child and the crab. In each of these images, there is a sense of isolation while the respective creature displays an action of instinct of survival. Eliot suggests in these images that life is simply a series of automatic and instinctive responses concerning each individual’s own survival.
The fifth stanza resurrects the rhythm of the second stanza using the familiar onomatopoeia and rhyme to create a walking rhythm along with repetition of the motif of the street-lamp. Our attention is returned to the personification of the moon. The French term “La lune ne garde aucune rancune” means, “the moon bears no grudge.” This in effect gives us the impression that the moon is detached from the whole situation and is merely overlooking what is occurring. The rest of the stanza continues to describe the moon as an old woman with constant references to previous images like “twisting…dust…germaniums.” The final few lines depict a sense of seduction and could even refer to a brothel. This reinforces the previous view of the lack of confidence in relationships as women are seen as seductive and painful.
The last stanza returns us to the external and rational landscape as the narrator reaches his home after his long walk though the lamp is still personificated. It is now four o’clock and as soon as the narrator sees the number on his door, he exits his “fantasy” world and returns to reality as emphasised by the line “Memory!” The final three lines uses an accumulation of routine objects suggesting that our lives are held together simply by routine. The very last line uses the significant word “twist” which concludes the poem by making a reference back to the women with the eye that is twisted and of the twisted branch that is eaten up. This suggests that even after coming back to reality, these images remain.
Eliot’s Rhapsody on a Windy Night delivers his responses to life as a totally purposeless and meaningless thing. He reveals this using an array of images that allow the narrator and to an extent the reader to discover life to be isolated and lonely held together only by routine and instinct, automatic responses but ultimately is corrosive and wears us down.
By: Tigrex (I'm azn btw)
Copyright Feb 2009

| Posted on 2009-02-21 | by a guest

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