Rhapsody on a Windy Night

Rhapsody on a Windy Night Study Guide

Rhapsody on a Windy Night” is a Modernist poem written in free verse with occasional rhymes. The major conflict in the poem is between nature, represented by the moon, and culture, represented by the city. It explores themes of memory and fate.

T.S. Eliot wrote the poem early in his career (1911). After studying philosophy at Harvard University, T.S. Eliot moved to Paris for a year (1910-1911) to continue his studies at the Sorbonne. He was twenty-two years old. The themes and style of "Rhapsody on a Windy Night" were influenced by French philosophy and literature. Eliot attended Henri Bergson’s lectures on philosophy, about which he wrote: “The past exists in the present, which contains the future. The concrete and ever-present instance of duration is life, for each of us living individuals is his own time.” Many scholars have written about "Rhapsody" as Eliot’s grappling with Bergson’s notions of time and memory. His choice to focus on urban slums as a subject matter was informed by reading the poets Jules Laforgue, Paul Valéry, and Charles Baudelaire, and the novelist Charles-Louis Philippe. “Rhapsody on a Windy Night” was first published in the literary magazine Blast 2 in 1915, and then in the book Prufrock and Other Observations in 1917.