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Transcending the Cosmos in “A Summer Evening’s Meditation”

“A Summer Evening’s Meditation” is a poem by Anna Letitia Barbauld that was published in 1773. The poem specifics the expansive thoughts of the speaker who is reflecting and philosophizing upon a summer season evening’s sky. In this poem, Barbauld carries readers through the cosmos for a transcendental experience with her poetic stylization and by use of literary devices, especially personification. Through personification of planets and stars, Barbauld communicates the speaker’s feeling of divine connection to nature. Barbauld’s “A Summer Evening’s Meditation” is a Romantic presentation of an astral projection-like meditative expertise that leads to a greater information of the self and a closer connection to God.

The poem begins at the close of day, and the speaker of the poem is eased by the sun’s setting simply because the night sky enables for a a lot more meditative state of thoughts. Barbauld describes the sun as an oppressive figure who stifles the wonders of the night sky by way of personification. This portrayal of the sun highlights the significance of the temporal setting of night time for the speaker’s transcendental experience further, this attribution of humanlike qualities to the sun makes it possible for the speaker to comprehend the sun in a much more meaningful manner. Barbauld opens the poem with an exclamatory remark to emphasize the value of the sun’s setting. She writes,

‘Tis previous! The sultry tyrant of the south

Has spent his quick-lived rage more grateful hours

Move silent on the skies no more repel

The dazzled sight … (1-four)

Barbauld’s personification of the sun as a “sultry tyrant” emphasizes the relief felt by the speaker at sunset. The sun does not merely shine rather, it rages on oppressively with stifling heat, humidity, and brightness. The stars, which Barbauld depicts as having feminine beauty and soft, flowing grace, are “repelled” by the sun’s harsh nature. The nighttime is personified as becoming the “more grateful hours” of the day, and this implies that the sun is ungrateful. It is clear that the sun is the enemy of the speaker’s meditative mind.

As the burdensome sun sets, the moon and the stars commence to glisten in the night sky, and the speaker of the poem finds herself in a state of contemplation. In contrast to the adverse connotation given to the sun by way of Barbauld’s use of personification, the moon and the stars are personified by way of terms of radiance and favorability. Barbauld, personifying the moon in contrast to the sun, writes,

… but with mild maiden beams

Of tempered lustre court the cherished eye

To wander o’er their sphere where, hung aloft,

Dian’s vibrant crescent, like a silver bow

New strung in heaven, lifts higher its beamy horns

Impatient for the evening, and seems to push

Her brother down the sky. (four-10)

Unlike the sun, which is personified as an oppressive figure, the evening sky is personified as an inviting and gentle female figure. The depiction of the moonbeam’s luster “courting” the “cherished eye” showcases the tone with which Barbauld approaches the night sky. Via her personification of the moon, Barbauld creates a connection in between the speaker and the moon that goes beyond straightforward stargazing. The moon beckons the speaker’s eyes to scan the sky, to locate peace in the expansive night sky and its endless beauty and chance. As opposed to the ungrateful sun, the moon is impatient, or eager, to hang in the sky and shine her personal light. Barbauld’s personification of the moon is gentle and encouraging. Primarily based on Barbauld’s personification of the moon, it is understood that the moon offers the time and the space for solitude and reflection. Contrasted against the tyrannical daylight, the soft, ethereal light of the moon provides the speaker an opportunity to reflect.

In addition to personifying the sun and moon, Barbauld continues to employ personification throughout the poem to depict other planets and stars in the cosmos. This concept of adding humanlike attributes to the planets and stars is standard of the Romantic literary tradition simply because it makes it possible for for the speaker to connect with nature on a spiritual level. The planets and stars are not basically bodies of gas they epitomize the energy of God’s divinity. The night sky invokes a meditative thoughts in the speaker which allows her to view the cosmos from a philosophical perspective. The speaker, imagining herself floating by means of space, current as 1 with the planets, feels a divine connection to the cosmos. The speaker views “solitary Mars,” Jupiter, who “dances in ether like the lightest leaf,” and “cheerless Saturn,” who “sits like an exiled monarch” (75-81). As the speaker of the poem, in her meditative state, begins to visualize herself drifting into the ether, she recognizes these planets and stars as their own sentient beings with a purposeful existence. It is by way of this personification of the evening sky that the speaker comes to realize the idea of a living, breathing, and interconnected cosmos that exemplifies God’s power and divinity.

The speaker of the poem experiences serenity in the silence of the evening, and this nurtures her capacity to realize nature in a spiritually meaningful way. By visualizing herself among the stars in this astral projection-like knowledge, the speaker views the planets and stars as representations of God’s glorious creation, and she comes to realize the divinity in herself by seeing the divinity of the night’s sky. Barbauld writes,

… Or is there not

A tongue in every star, that talks with man,

And woos him to be wise? nor woos in vain:

This dead of midnight is the noon of thought,

And Wisdom mounts her zenith with the stars. (48-52)

Continuing her use of personification, Barbauld depicts the stars a lot like she depicts the moon. Like the moon, the stars get in touch with to the speaker they woo her to seek some higher expertise from their flickering. The speaker gains a closer understanding of herself and God by transcending her earthly form and aligning herself with the stars. For the speaker of the poem, the beauty of the stars captures the essence of God’s presence. It is at evening, when the stars flicker and the moonlight softens the sky, that the speaker can witness the overwhelming yet humbling expanse of God’s creation.

In conclusion, Barbauld’s “A Summer Evening’s Meditation” demonstrates a conventionally Romantic portrayal of a starlit meditation that transforms into a transcendental astral projection-like knowledge which spiritually ignites the speaker. By using personification in her writing, Barbauld pinpoints the divine connection that the speaker feels when reflecting upon the evening sky. It is through this recognition of the divine interconnectedness of the cosmos and her spot within them that the speaker realizes that she can discover God in herself just as she finds God in the stars. In the poem, the evening sky encourages a state of contemplation, and this state of contemplation permits for the speaker to transcend her physical state to achieve a closer connection to God.

Work Cited

Barbauld, Anna Letitia. “A Summer time Evening’s Meditation.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, 9th ed., D, W.W. Norton, 2012, pp. 43–45.
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