What is the full analysis of the poem "The Winter Evening Settles Down"?

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"The Winter Evening Settles Down" is the first part of T.S. Eliot's "Preludes." It consists of thirteen lines written in free verse , with an irregular rhyme scheme and meter. The lengths of the lines, and their inclusion or omission of rhyme, correlate with the message and mood...

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"The Winter Evening Settles Down" is the first part of T.S. Eliot's "Preludes." It consists of thirteen lines written in free verse, with an irregular rhyme scheme and meter. The lengths of the lines, and their inclusion or omission of rhyme, correlate with the message and mood each line is intended to convey. "Six o'clock," for example, is an isolated line, the shortest in the poem; this gives it an impact not unlike the sound of a clock sounding out six o'clock. It is an interruption to the rest of the poem and its world. Eliot uses colorful language to evoke various senses: the "smell of steaks" and the "burnt-out" "smoky" neighborhood can be felt, as well as imagined.

Eliot uses language, too, to create a semantic field of the "burnt-out" and the dried-up: the neighborhood is "withered," "vacant," "broken," and "lonely." One can imagine the sensation of leaves as they "wrap" around "your" feet—note Eliot's use of the second-person to directly address the reader, drawing them into the desolate scene. Everything in the poem builds this sense of the worn-out neighborhood, leading to the climactic pause at the end, before the final line announces "the lighting of the lamps." This caesura, coupled with the rhyme, suggests that the lighting of the lamps occasions some shift in the neighborhood, as in the poem, casting a light over matters and somehow shifting the sense of things. As six o'clock sounds, the lamps are lit, and the mood of the neighborhood subtly changes.

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In this poem, the speaker describes a winter evening. It is dinner time, and one can smell the steaks people are eating for their supper. The narrator describes the "burnt-out ends of smoky days," as though the evening is the ashen-gray leavings of a used-up cigarette: hardly a desirable or hopeful image. Then a rain shower comes, its wind pushing "grimy scraps / Of withered leaves about [one's] feet" and discarded newspapers with old news across empty parking lots. Everyone has gone home and the winter evening is deserted. The rain continues, falling on a rather dilapidated neighborhood with run-down homes. A single horse, all alone, stamps its feet and breathes steam in the chill air. Then, there is a break separating the final line form the rest: "And then the lighting of the lamps."

Throughout the poem's first twelve lines, the speaker paints a rather dreary picture of a winter evening in the city. It feels deserted, with everyone inside in their own homes. The evening feels "burnt-out" and the surroundings are "grimy" and "withered"; buildings are grungy and shabby, and garbage is strewn about. Even the horse is "lonely." This is a pretty bleak picture of modern life in the city until the very end, when the mood turns. There seems to be something hopeful about the lighting of the lamps. Lamplight has a way of turning gray and wet into pretty and glistening. Light, itself, is almost always associated with something hopeful. Perhaps the night hides much of the grime and shadiness, making night in the city seem more lovely and hopeful than it does during the day.

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T.S. Eliot's "Prelude I," or "The Winter Evening Settles Down," is one of four parts of a longer poem called "Preludes." Each part is written in free verse, with no particular similarities between the pieces. The poem shows the reader a series of distinct images that appeal to the senses, such as "the smell of steak," "a gusty shower," and "grimy scraps/of withered leaves." Eliot describes very concrete things, telling the reader that the time is 6 o'clock and giving fleeting images of a cab-horse and discarded newspapers. The overall effect of this poem is a feeling of actually standing on that street for a moment at six in the evening, feeling the wind, smelling the air, and looking around at the dirty street. The poem ends with a line separate from the rest: "And then the lighting of the lamps." This line seems to signal a change in the poem. Perhaps as it grows dark and the lamps illuminate the street rather than sunlight, some of the grime will be covered up and the street will appear different. Or perhaps this shows a reason for the lack of people in the poem; the streets seem to be empty after a busy day. Either way, the lighting of the lamps helps the reader to move into Prelude II.
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