What is a summary for the poem "Oft in the Stilly Night" by Thomas Moore?

5 Answers | Add Yours

kplhardison's profile pic

Posted on

Thomas Moore canvasses two periods (past and present) and kinds of memories (boyhood and present) in "Oft in the Stilly Might." The first stanza begins with memories of boyhood, and the last ends with present circumstances. The theme of death carries throughout. Two periods of memories occupy the first stanza. Death is first presented here in shining eyes that are now "dimmed and gone." It is next presented as "cheerful hearts now broken"; Moore transitions from boyhood to present time by switching from past to present tense in the space of two lines:

Now dimmed and gone, [past tense]
The cheerful hearts now broken! [present tense]

The second stanza brings near-present memories of "friends, so link'd together." Death is presented here as friends who "fall / Like leaves in wintry weather." Death is again presented in a personal connection and in a threatening way, threatening the poetic persona (who is accepted as being Moore himself) in the lines:

Whose garland's dead,
And all but he departed!

The opening lines become the refrain, with a variation of "Thus" on the opening "Oft" when the lines form the stanza-end refrain:

Oft [Thus] in the stilly night,
Ere Slumber's chain has bound me,
Fond Memory brings the light
Of other days around me;

In conjunction with the tenses changes shown above and the personalization indicated by "Whose"and "he," the repeated lines bring the binding chains nearer and nearer to the persona thus creating a sense of impending doom that grows as the "other days around me" allude to nearer and nearer times:

Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garland's dead,
And all but he departed!
Thus in the stilly night,
Ere Slumber's chain has bound me,
Sad Memory brings the light
Of other days around me.

Having explained this, the summary of the poem is that a speaker, facing a sense of doom accompanied by "chains" that bind, takes a verbal journey through the thoughts that engage his mind "in the stilly night / [Before] Slumber's chain has bound" him. He thinks of the light of "Fond memory" of "boyhood's years" and the loving words spoken. His thoughts then compare this to the absence of loving friends with "cheerful hearts now broken" in death.

Note that "Slumber's chain" that binds is a metaphor for psychological bonds of emotional chains, as in mourning for his dead children. With this in mind, in the end lines, his thoughts lean toward adulthood's memories of "friends" who "around [him] fall." Alone, as in "Some banquet-hall deserted," he feels the chains encroaching upon him--even as night's slumber encroaches--as "Sad Memory brings the [memory of] light / Of other days." [Note, Thomas Moore (1779-1852) is not to be confused with Thomas More (1477-1535) who was beheaded for treason.]

Sources:
samcestmoi's profile pic

Posted on

In “Oft, in the Stilly Night,” the speaker is talking about all the memories that come to him as he is lying in bed, “Ere slumber’s chain hath bound me.”  He remembers fondly old friends and lovers, the “boyhood’s years” that have fallen away and, in a sense, abandoned him.  The poem is a very lonely one, bathed in the sadness of nostalgia and a longing to return to days past.  In the second verse, when the speaker is thinking of all his friends that have fallen – we can assume that here he means they have died, though we cannot be sure; it is possible they have just drifted apart – he mourns that

I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed!

We are all familiar with a certain aspect of the poem – the reflective feelings that come while one lies in bed before falling asleep.  Nighttime has an almost occult ability to both soothe and haunt; the speaker here is succumbing to the lonesomeness of the dark.  The speaker has had a very happy life, full of friends and laughter and love; we can divine this from the images given in the first verse.  And now he lies alone at night, with nothing but memories to keep him company.  His life, which was once so much like a smartly-decorated banquet, is now fading.  And in this state, “the light of other memories,” though painful when compared to his current state, is soothing in itself.

kplhardison's profile pic

Posted on

Here's one section of refrain quoted:

Oft [Thus] in the stilly night,
Ere Slumber's chain has bound me,
Fond Memory brings the light
Of other days around me;

Here's a paraphrase of the quotation:

  • Oftentimes [or, in the variation, So it is that] in the still quiet night, before sleep's chains of unconsciousness have overtaken me, then fond memory, happy memory, shines the light, the luminescence of other days around me.  

"Ere" is Middle English (or poetic diction) for "before": Before something has happened; ere something has happened. Here, it is before sleep has rendered him unconscious; it is then that the poet voluntarily yields to sweet memory.

thanatassa's profile pic

Posted on

"Oft, in the Stilly Night" is a sentimental poem by the late-eighteenth and early- nineteenth century Irish poet Thomas Moore. 

The poem consists of two fourteen-line stanzas, almost giving it a feel of a double sonnet, although the stanzas do not have the rhyme scheme typical of sonnets. The lines are mainly iambic trimeter and dimeter, using an irregular arrangement typical of odes or songs. 

The narrator is lying in bed in the still night, just before going to sleep. He reflects back on his cheerful childhood, thinking of memories of lost loves and friendships, and mourning their vanishing from his life; the specific details are not given.

In the second stanza, the narrator thinks of friends "falling" like leaves in winter. He does not specify whether he means them dying or just losing touch with them. Although he feels lonely, memories keep in company.

Sources:

We’ve answered 327,804 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question