The Poems of William Blake

Summary and Analysis of To the Evening Star

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Summary

In “To the Evening Star”, Blake maintains his Sketches theme of the daily cycle as metaphor to innocence and experience. Specifically here, the speaker calls upon the “fair-hair’d angel of the evening” to protect him (all of us) against the evils of the night, and more importantly, inspire “whilst the sun rests” all that is oppressed during daytime.

The star represents the transcendent moments of struggle between oppositions. It is a “bright torch” while all else is dark, presenting a juxtaposition thus transcendent symbol. In reality, the star is most likely the planet Venus, the Goddess of love and beauty, and helps build Blake’s motif of eroticism and desires that must remain hidden under the light of the omniscient day (notice the bed is “our” and not “mine” indicating it is a shared domain). The speaker is beckoning Venus to bless the bed (some argue a bridal bed, although there is very little evidence elsewhere to support such notion) and to “smile on [their] love.”

But Venus cries “tears of dew” as she herself is aware of humankind’s fallen state on earth where sexual creativeness operates in a real of dangerous passions symbolized by savage beasts (the wolf and the lion). Again we have a struggle of opposites here, this time symbolized through predator and prey that further builds up Blake’s theme of the cyclic and dialectic nature of the universe in which we live. The speaker is young (as Blake himself was at the time) and his frustration between these opposing forces is placed on the table to deal with: youth and age, tyrant and slave, day and night, male and female, predatory and prey.

Analysis

There are three major considerations to be taken from “The Evening Star.” One is the theme of pastoral simplicity. It is in the last two lines that the speaker appeals to God for the first time, recognizing his inferiority and potential impotence when it comes to protecting his flock from the fall of grace. The second is political entrapment. Again, the speaker knows that it is during night, when Venus’s “radiant crown” holds the power to put an end to all of daytime’s rules (change the color of the sky, put the flowers to sleep, calm the wind). Alas, the excitement and bliss of the unencumbered will “soon withdraw,” and just as in man’s law-abiding society, the force of opposition governs all of Blake’s inhibitions. Lastly is sexual desire. The speaker here is simply looking for any excuse, any blessing, to act upon his primitive desire to mate with the opposite sex. Knowing an appeal to reason, religion, and God is out of the question; he turns to nighttime’s nature queen in hopes for approval.