It Is a Beauteous Evening Analysis
by William Wordsworth

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It Is a Beauteous Evening Analysis

"It Is a Beauteous Evening," written by William Wordsworth, is a poem that captures the power of a tranquil moment in nature.

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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.

The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

In William Wordsworth’s poem “It Is a Beauteous Evening” the poet is watching the sun set over the ocean; the evening is beautiful and calm, inspiring a mood of religious awe, like “a Nun/ Breathless with adoration.” Amid the tranquility, the poet’s attention shifts, and he suddenly takes note of the sound of the waves. The noise, “like thunder,” shows that the ocean is awake. Its unceasing motion brings to the poet’s mind thoughts of eternity.

The reader first realizes that the poet is not alone as he addresses a young girl, who is walking by his side. The scene does not seem to inspire lofty, “solemn” thoughts in her, as it has done in the poet, but her nature is not “less divine” for that reason. On the contrary, she is always close to the divine: She lies “in Abraham’s bosom all the year.” God is with her, and she is worshiping even when that is not apparent to an observer.

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The most striking structural feature of the sonnet are the two sudden shifts, each of which adds an important complication to the situation described in the poem’s opening lines. The first five lines emphasize the quietness and tranquility of the evening. This natural scene is given a specifically religious dimension when the time is called “holy” in line 2. The epithet blossoms into the metaphor of “a Nun/ Breathless with adoration.” The metaphor suggests a tense alertness to the presence of something higher, as opposed to a passive letting go.

The same tension appears in the next lines. The sun is “sinking down in its tranquility.” (When Wordsworth calls the sun “broad,” he refers very precisely to the well-known visual phenomenon that the sun and moon appear...

(The entire section is 1,276 words.)