“Clear Night” is a long poem of 141 lines in free verse. It is divided into seven stanzas of varying length. The poem is dedicated to André Breton and Benjamin Péret, two influential Surrealist poets with whom Octavio Paz became associated in the 1940’s while he lived in Paris. From the opening two stanzas, one is led to believe that the three characters in the poem correspond directly to Paz, Breton, and Péret, and the rest of the lyric confirms this belief. The poet uses the first person with no suggestion of artifice; that is, one can safely assume that the speaker of the poem is Paz himself and not a fictional persona. The poem is cast as a recollection of an experience, so much of the time the past tense is used. At moments of special importance the poet shifts to the present tense, as if he were reliving those moments.
Contrary to the suggestion of the title, the poem begins with the three poets sitting in a café at ten o’clock on a misty autumn evening. They are the only ones lingering there. They feel the ominous approach of autumn, which is compared to a “blind giant” (line 5) and “faceless man” (line 8) advancing toward the city. Suspending such dark thoughts, the poet shifts the reader’s attention to scenes of the city, and the reader views these scenes as if through the same window as the three friends in the café. It is this experience of carefully attending to the city—not only to its main streams but also to its underground life—that informs the poet’s observations throughout the rest of the poem. In particular, he focuses on a teenage couple. The boy is streetwise and tough. The girl is more innocent, small and pale but also resilient and surprisingly durable, like a “pale branch in a patio in winter” (line 54). She is...
(The entire section is 730 words.)