Last Updated September 5, 2023.
"It Is a Beauteous Evening," written by William Wordsworth, is a poem that captures the power of a tranquil moment in nature.
Heavy in the importance of elements of nature, the poem captures Wordsworth's Romantic focus that pervades his poetry. The poem focuses on a simple moment in walking by the ocean with a child (who is assumed to be Wordsworth's own daughter, whom he had not seen in a decade). Therefore, the poem also is thought to capture an actual moment from Wordsworth's life instead of an imaginary moment via a fictitious narrator. Wordsworth describes the calming influence of the sea and likens it to a "holy time." Because the child with him is so innocent in her thoughts, she is also part of God's wonderfully divine nature. Wordsworth's description of the sea, the child, and the evening itself as being part of a holy experience shows the Romanticism that is woven throughout much of his poetry.
Religious imagery and terminology is used throughout the poem. Evening is described as being "quiet as a Nun," a simile that reinforces the pious beauty of Wordsworth's experience on this evening. He notes that the "heaven broods o'er the Sea," choosing to focus on God's creation in the use of "heaven" instead of "sky." He gives a poetic nod to the Creator's power in being able to create eternal thunder via the tide that relentlessly beats on the shore, an "eternal motion" of wonder. And because the child is so innocent in her thoughts, she "liest in Abraham's bosom all year," noting that God is with her even when she is not aware of it.
The poem is written as a Petrarchan sonnet, dividing into 8 lines that describe the sea itself, followed by 6 lines that focus on the child who accompanies him. The rhyme pattern of the first 8 lines is ABBAACCA. In the second half of the stanza, the focus switches to the child, and the rhyme pattern changes to DEFDFE. Perhaps this interesting, almost-not-a-pattern in the end reflects a bit of a struggle that Wordsworth has had in connecting with his daughter in real life. Clearly he appreciates her innocence and beauty, but he hasn't been able to be with her for many years; his rhythm with her is a bit off.
"It Is a Beauteous Evening" uses a tranquil tone to convey the calming and awe-inspiring power of a reflective time in nature.