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

2 Answers

hannahhunt09's profile pic

hannahhunt09 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

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.
kc4u's profile pic

kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Do you refer to the first of the four parts of Preludes or just the first one? If it is the first, here goes an analysis---

It presents to us a desolate image gallery that captures a squalid, pointless and boring cityscape and its random happenings which only reinstate stasis. The settling down of the winter evening is made to imitate the movement with which a cat settles down or takes its seat. There is a synesthetic imagery that combines sights, smells, taste and so on. There are  smells of steaks and the smoke that comes out of the burnt out butt of a cigar is what the end of the day is compared. There is a connotation of exhaustion and boredom everywhere in this landscape.

The random shower, the grimy scraps, the heap of withered leaves all symbolize a lifeless hollowness of modern day urban existence, so very characteristic of early Eliot.

The lonely cab-horse is the acute symbol of helpless rage, frustration and absolute alienation with which the fragment comes to a close.  The lighting of the lamps is like a switch from the darkness so far described and fleshed out in different ways but as the other fragments imply, this lighting is not at all non-problematic.