Night by William Blake

Night Analysis

The sun descending in the west.
The evening star does shine.
The birds are silent in their nest,
And I must seek for mine,
The moon like a flower,
In heavens high bower;
With silent delight,
Sits and smiles on the night.

Farewell green fields and happy groves,
Where flocks have took delight;
Where lambs have nibbled, silent moves
The feet of angels bright;
Unseen they pour blessing,
And joy without ceasing,
On each bud and blossom,
And each sleeping bosom.

They look in every thoughtless nest
Where birds are covered warm;
They visit caves of every beast,
To keep them all from harm;
If they see any weeping.
That should have been sleeping
They pour sleep on their head
And sit down by their bed.

When wolves and tygers howl for prey
They pitying stand and weep;
Seeking to drive their thirst away,
And keep them from the sheep.
But if they rush dreadful;
The angels most heedful,
Receive each mild spirit.
New worlds to inherit.

And there the lions ruddy eyes,
Shall flow with tears of gold;
And pitying the tender cries,
And walking round the fold:
Saying: wrath by his meekness
And by his health, sickness.
Is driven away,
From our immortal day.

And now beside thee, bleating lamb.
I can lie down and sleep;
Or think on him who bore thy name.
Graze after thee and weep.
For wash'd in lifes river.
My bright mane for ever.
Shall shine like the gold,
As I guard o'er the fold.


The poem “Night”, published in 1789 by English poet William Blake, was written with the purpose of enlightening the audience about the existence of protective forces, and the inevitable evils of mankind. William Blake was an eccentric, though highly religious, man. Nearly all of his poems contain some reference to god, or allude to the bible in some manner. In the poem “Night” Blake, not-so-subtly, suggests the existence of guardian angels and demons of the night. His poem is filled with descriptive language, extended metaphor, and allusions.
The first stanza of the poem informs the reader that the day is coming to an end, and night is approaching. “The sun descending in the west. The evening star does shine” (1). The first stanza also personifies the moon and sun, by suggesting that the sun is seeking it’s bed, and the moon “smiles on the night” (8). The first stanza also sets up the rest of the poems’ rhythm. “Night” is written with an AB-AB-AA-BB rhyme scheme. The organized layout of the stanzas, makes the poem flow more smoothly, and draws the audience’s attention. The rhyme scheme also allows for easier reading, and the repetition of the rhymes gives the poem an almost “sing-songy” rhythm.
In the second stanza the sun is saying goodbye to the earth as it sets over the horizon. “Farewell green fields and happy groves” (9), and it is in this stanza that the guardian angels that Blake is so famous for first appear. They are described as bearers of luck and joy, whom visit all the sleeping creatures of the earth in order to protect them from harm. The “lambs” symbolize the innocent minds of children, and could even be a reference to deep sleep, when one counts sheep jumping over a fence.
The third stanza is a continuation of the second. It goes into further depth on the duties of the angels. “They look in every thoughtless nest…to keep them all from harm” (17-20). Blake’s guardian angels take on the role of dutiful parents, whom sit at their children’s bedsides as they sleep. The tone of the stanza is very comforting. Words such as “warm”, “sleep”, and “bed” (17-25) convey feelings of contentment and safety, however, in the fourth stanza; the tone of the poem takes a drastic turn.
Wolves and tigers are nocturnal predators. Blake uses them to symbolize the evils of mankind, perhaps murderers, thieves, and rapists. In the fourth stanza, the “wolves and tygers howl for prey” (25), and seek out the innocent sleeping sheep. Although the guardian angels are meant to protect those who are sleeping, they are powerless to stop the blood thirsty predators. Blake uses the situation to represent the desperateness of life, and while some may do their best to protect the minds of the young, at one point or another, all innocence comes to an end.
In the last two stanzas, the sun makes its reappearance. It is in these last two stanzas that Blake alludes to the bible, and finishes his description of the sun with an extended metaphor. The lion whose eyes “flow with tears of gold” (34) symbolizes both the sun and Jesus Christ, aka: the lion of Iscariot. Stanza five alludes to the qualities of Christ that make him the ultimate guardian angel: “Wrath by his meekness and by his health, sickness is driven away” (37-38). Jesus does not retaliate with violence. He protects his people through self-sacrifice. Jesus also cures the ills and ailments of his people. Blake alludes to Christ in order to show that all men, women, and children are sheep of God’s great flock, and Jesus is the benevolent shepherd.
In the final Stanza the lion returns to symbolizing the sun. The sun finally sets over the horizon and “sleeps”. The sun’s final goodbye is a statement that is meant to reassure the sleeping lambs that it will be back to protect them once again. The final stanza also alludes to the river styx: “For wash’d in lifes river”. The river is used to represent heaven and the after life. The sun/Jesus states, that even in death “My bright mane for ever shall shine like the gold as I guard o’er the fold” (46-48). This simply means that the sun, aka: Jesus, will always be there to watch over the creatures of the earth, and that not even death can break that promise.

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