Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Clear Night” is about the poet’s revelation of the interconnectedness or coexistence of things that are usually seen as opposing and separate, such as life and death, past and present, and the heavenly and the mundane. “Everything is a door” (line 16 and line 69), one reads, and “everything a bridge” (line 70). If one waits and observes closely, one will see beneath the superficial divisions in the world and understand that everything is comparable to everything else. The “light push of a thought” (line 17) is all that is needed for such a revelation.

The vision that is celebrated is one that depends on the viewer’s arrival at a point that is neither a door nor a bridge, but a point prior to time and space, pure essence. Quite simply, in order to perceive that everything is connected, one must be outside the network of connections. At this point outside time and space, the poet is most aware of, and sensitive to, chance occurrences which would challenge the appearance of reality and reveal something more fundamental than convention or unearth something below consciousness. This is the point of expectation—the expectation that is returned to several times in the poem with the refrain, “Something’s about to happen” (lines 18, 32, and 113).

One could also say that this isolated point is the point of pure desire, for desire that is sullied with appetite and acquisitiveness must be suspended in this state. This pure...

(The entire section is 600 words.)