Tonight I Can Write (The Saddest Lines)

Tonight I Can Write (The Saddest Lines) Literary Elements

Speaker or Narrator, and Point of View

First-person speaker struggling to express himself following a lover's rejection or abandonment.

Form and Meter

Free verse in a series of one and two-line stanzas

Metaphors and Similes

The simile "the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture" portrays the speaker's soul as a pasture, and his poetry as the dew that lands on it.

Alliteration and Assonance

Several phrases, including "shiver in the distance," "still more immense without her," and "This is all. In the distance someone is singing," use assonant short I sounds. The latter of these also uses alliterative S sounds, which also appear in the line "my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her."


The speaker's claim that he can write "the saddest lines" is ironic, since his subsequent lines are emotionally understated and halting. In general, the poem expresses a broader situational irony: strong emotions can be a barrier rather than an aid to self-expression.


Lyric poetry


A desolate area on a windy, starry night


Lamenting, nostalgic, bewildered

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist is the speaker, while the antagonist is the lover who has caused him heartbreak

Major Conflict

The poem's major conflict is the speaker's attempt to understand and express his own feelings. The lover's abandonment is not a major conflict, since it is completed and since the speaker has no hope of regaining her love. Instead, he now tries to comprehend what has happened, make sense of his situation, and put his emotions into language.


The poem's final lines, in which the speaker defiantly asserts that he will no longer feel pain or write verses because of the lover.


The speaker's assurance that he can write "the saddest lines" hint at his not-yet-revealed heartache.


The speaker's tone as he offers an example of the "saddest lines" is tonally understated, deliberately delivering a line less dramatic than readers have been led to expect.


Metonymy and Synecdoche

The speaker uses the words "my soul" to refer to himself through synecdoche in the line "My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her."


Nature is personified in the line "The night wind revolves in the sky and sings."


The speaker's repeated promise that he can write "the saddest" lines is hyperbolic.