In "Count That Day Lost," what does the speaker want the reader to do at dusk?  

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In George Eliot's "Count That Day Lost," the narrator doesn't want the reader to do anything at dusk but does suggest a certain perspective on the act of self-reflection, should the reader be engaging in it. The poem begins in the following way:

If you sit down...

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In George Eliot's "Count That Day Lost," the narrator doesn't want the reader to do anything at dusk but does suggest a certain perspective on the act of self-reflection, should the reader be engaging in it. The poem begins in the following way:


If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done


Here, we see that the narrator is simply bringing up the idea of self-reflection. However, while the narrator doesn't want the reader to do anything in that moment of self-reflection, the narrator does want the reader to have done something earlier in the day. The first stanza continues:


And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went—
Then you may count that day well spent.


If there is any desire conveyed by the narrator, it is that the reader will see that the day was spent in kindness, easing the burdens of others around them. This is, to the narrator, a "day well spent." In contrast, stanza two expresses what the narrator doesn't want the reader to do:


If, through it all
You've nothing done that you can trace
That brought the sunshine to one face—
No act most small
That helped some soul and nothing cost—
Then count that day as worse than lost.


Through referring to this type of day as "worse than lost," the narrator shows that what they truly want is not for the reader to reflect at dusk but rather to find, should they reflect at dusk, that the reader's day was spent in service to others.

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