Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Virtually all Trakl’s poems possess the same thematic concerns. Throughout his canon, Trakl perpetually laments the fallen state of humanity and humanity’s inability to return to a state that is not laden with corruption. “Evening Song” is no exception.

In stanza 2, Trakl first makes reference to something white: “We drink the white waters of the pool,/ The sweetness of our mournful childhood.” Here, the water clearly becomes a symbol of purity, not only because of the word “white,” but also because of the implication of “white water.” White water implies a purity of cleansing or baptism—something truly pure. In this verse, Trakl associates the “sweetness” of his childhood with the white water, suggesting that Trakl perceives childhood as a state of innocence to be envied.

This preoccupation of Trakl is reaffirmed in the following stanza when he says, “Dead, we rest beneath the elder bushes.” Because Trakl and his friend have moved out of childhood, they have fallen from innocence. For Trakl, this is a lethal fall; he aligns the fall from innocence with the inescapable fall into death. Trakl’s fall from innocence is strikingly similar to William Blake’s fall in his Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794), though Trakl’s fall into knowledge is the fall into the knowledge of decay.

The only unsoiled beings in “Evening Song” are the monks. As was stated earlier, because they are...

(The entire section is 487 words.)