The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Evening Song” is a short lyric poem written in a symmetrical structure that contributes to the poem’s cyclical effect. The poem is only fourteen lines long, the same length as a sonnet, although Georg Trakl’s poem does not function quite like a sonnet. Trakl creates his structure by repeating the pattern of a three-line stanza enclosed by two-line stanzas. In German, stanzas 3 and 4 contain the same number of syllables, which reinforces the poem’s symmetrical nature as well as acting as an echo. All of these elements lend a feeling of closure to the poem.

Although “Evening Song” is technically written in free verse, some of the couplets form end rhymes, which extends the symmetry of the poem. This technique and the intricate rhythms of the language are lost in translation, but the overall rhythms of Trakl’s poem come through in English, combining with the poem’s motion to create a circular, unified result.

Trakl begins “Evening Song” in the same way that he begins many of his poems: The speaker is somewhere unknown, walking on a dark path. Even in English, Trakl’s language reinforces the idea of walking. The rhythm of the language is steady and methodical, but occasionally pauses, reminding one of walking.

Despite the fact that Trakl goes to some effort to construct a sensation of motion for the reader, he is most concerned with what happens on the walk. Between stanzas 3 and 4, the fulcrum of the poem, a...

(The entire section is 503 words.)