Lights Out Poem by Edward Thomas

Lights Out by Edward Thomas

About the poet

Philip Edward Thomas (March 03, 1878- April 09, 1917) was a Welsh(citizen of Wales- An Independent British Colony) poet and writer. He belonged to the Georgian group of poets. Although few of his poems deal directly with his war experience, he is commonly considered a war poet.

Thomas was an accomplished writer and turned to poetry in 1914. He was mainly famous for the themes of death, uncertainty, and doubt in his poems. His poems had been very thought-provoking and true to life in expression.

He had also been an eminent biographer. Thomas published several important critical and biographical studies including Richard Jefferies(1909), Maurice Maeterlinck (1911), Algernon Charles Swinburne(1912), and Walter Pater(1913).

Edward Thomas was commissioned as a second lieutenant during the First World War. He killed in action soon after he reached in France at Arras on Easter Monday, 9 April 1917. He is buried in the Military Cemetery at Agny in France(Row C, Grave 43).

Summary | Main Idea | Lights Out

In this poem, Edward Thomas expresses his views about the experience of sleep. He describes the great alluring power of sleep which affects our senses. Sleep is a gift of nature. Sleep makes us forget everything and brings peace and comfort to us.

The poet compares the sleep with a deep forest where he losses himself. He is transported from the known to the unknown world. For him, sleep is an equalizing factor bringing the rich and the poor, the good and the bad to the same level.

We forget our worldly worries and pleasures. We can not simply resist it. We put off the lights and enjoy a peaceful slumber. The poet says that all must lose their way all people good and ba, in this deep forest of sleep. He presents sleep as a vast dark forest. 

As we come traveling to its borders and want to advance further, we lose our way. Then we are under the control of sleep. The world of daytime activities is distinct from the world of sleep. In the morning, we travelers go on moving along different roads and tracks. 

We remain busy all day not thinking that we will be helpless in the hands of sleep very soon. The poet makes the general comment that all our troubles, pleasures, despair, and ambition must end in sleep. We must close our books and sweet left sweet friends to enter alone the territory of sleep.

Lights Out is a fascinating, enchanting, captivating, and spellbinding poem on sleep. The poet points out that sleep is the most powerful and pleasant experience of man's life. The basic theme or central idea of the poem is based on human sleep.

Sleep comes to everyone. We are forced to leave all our worldly works. We must forget all our passions, wishes, desires, and high goals when sleep comes. Even we forget our own identity after the arrival of sleep. It is a thought-provoking and philosophical poem.

It deals with the universal phenomena of nature. Sleep is a condition of forgetfulness. In this sense, we forget our worries and problems when sleep comes to us. The poet indirectly praises sleep for this reason: 

In silence, I hear and obey
That I may lose my way
And myself.
 
The forest image dominates the whole poem. It provides it unity. It gives the poem a dark, still, and silent atmosphere. A critic says: The sleep Thomas longs for(desires greatly), the death of consciousness is also death itself. Surely he gets comfort in sleep and gives reasons for this. 

If he wants to have permanent comfort, he will surely like to die? Sleep is the closest to death. Death is something like a permanent sleep. Shakespeare says that sleep is a death of each day's life, sore labor's bath, Balm of hurt minds.

In fact, Thomas does not clearly indicate in the poem that death is better than life. He does not write this poem pessimistically. He only wants silence and comforts a break in his work which comes with sleep.

Explanation and Reference to Context

Lines 1-6

I have come to the borders of sleep
The unfathomable deep
Forest where all must lose
Their way, however, straight
Or winding, soon or late,
They cannot choose


Reference and Context

These lines have been taken from the poem Lights Out written by Edward Thomas. In this poem, the poet expresses his feelings and views about the experience of sleep. He points out that sleep exercises great alluring power over man's senses.

A person can not resist its influence. The poet compares sleep with a thick and deep forest in which everyone losses his way. He appreciates sleep because it helps us in forgetting our worries and providing relief from the hardships of life.

Explanation


In these verses, the poet describes his process of sleep. He says that he has come to the border of sleep. He is now under the influence of sleep. Sleep is taking hold of him. He feels that he is entering into a deep forest of sleep in which everyone is bound to lose his way.

He finds himself in the immeasurable depths of the forest. Nobody has a choice there. Everyone straight or crooked can lose his way, sooner or later in the thick forest of sleep. He surrenders before the soothing and calm influence of sleep without any choice.

Lines 7-12

Many a roads track
That, since the dawn's first crack
Up to the forest brink,
Deceived the travelers,
Suddenly now blurs,
And in they sink.


Reference and Context

Same as for lines 1-6

Explanation


In these lines, the poet tries to explain that human beings are like travelers, traveling from one point to another, as they live. They follow different complex paths and roads. All these passages and ways lead the people to the edge of the forest of sleep at the end of the day.

When the light of the day gets blur and the day workers are unable to see well into the distance, they feel like sleeping. They soon sink into their beds and are gone into the dreamland of sleep. Darkness and sleep are the same things in reality as they overpower and control the people after the start of the night.

Then, in sleep, they are as good as death until Nature wakes them up and they come to life to be active again. Sleep is closely associated with death as one great poet has called death eternal sleep. In sleep, all forget worldly occupations and affairs and sink into the dark forest of sleep.

Lines 13-18


Here love ends,
Despair, ambition ends;
All pleasure and all trouble,
Although most sweet or bitter,
Here ends in sleep that is sweeter
Than tasks most noble.


Reference and Context

Same as for line 1-6

Explanation

In these lines, the poet presents an interesting view of sleep. He delineates the power of sleep on human beings. To him, sleep is a very alluring thing. He says that when sleep comes, we willingly or unwillingly stop all our activities.

When sleep comes to a person, he forgets all that is the best or worst in life. He forgets and leaves his beloved and stops all lovemaking. He gets out of all his worries and disappointments to be lost in his sleep. He gets away from all his high hopes of success and struggles in life to stay at rest in sleep. 

Kings, princes, rulers, ministers, generals, fighters, inventors, scientists, and all kinds of common people like office workers, farmers, and laborers leave all their work and go to sleep at the end of the day. Nothing is more significant and comforting than sleep when we get tired.


There is not any book
Or face of dearest look
That I would not turn from now
To go into the unknown
I must enter, and leave, alone,
I know not how.

Reference and Context

Same as for line 1-6

Explanation

The poet draws our attention to the all-important condition of sleep that we must be in at any point in time. If we want to read a book or are in the company of a person and we are looking at his face happily, we must forget each of these when sleep approaches and overpowers us.

Sleep is surely going into the unknown from the known. The poet presents sleep as a vast unknown or unexplored area that a person enters alone in it. He leaves all company, market places, gatherings, parties, discussions, and quarrels to sleep companionless. Even lovers staying together enter separately, all alone like people dying singly.

Lines 25-30

The tall forest towers
Its cloudy foliage lowers
Ahead, shelf above shelf,
Its silence I hear and obey
That I may lose my way
And myself

Reference and Context

Same as for lines 1-6

Explanation

The poet continues his likening of sleep to a thick forest in which we lose ourselves very easily. In the forest, there are huge tall trees with uncountable leaves sticking together. The trees are like towers that are solidly unshakeable and look frightening.

These trees or towers have layers of branches and leave one upon another. The thick leaves and branches in the forest block sunlight from reaching the ground. In the dim light, travelers lose their way. This is the forest of sleep in which all of us lose our worldly ways.

We move away from the noises, worries, problems, and confusions of society when we enter a forest with its relative silence. We still have perplexed dreams in sleep-related to our daily problems. But we do get comforted and relieved physically and psychologically.

Important Questions and Their Answers

Question 1

How does sleep in the poem Lights Out end love, despair, ambition, and all pain

Lights Out throw light on the power of sleep. Discuss.

Lights Out dwell upon the power of sleep. Discuss.

Answer

Many a poet uses the metaphor of sleep for death. Sleep, like death, puts an end to human activities. Mn embraces sleep or death all alone. Lights Out too are replete with references that suggest that sleep stands for death.

Sleep is a powerful thing and exercises its influence equally on everybody. Rich and poor, old and young, healthy and ill, good and bad, all get to benefit from sleep. It brings peace, comfort, and satisfaction to everybody alike. It ends all activities, good and bad, important and unimportant.

Sleep treats everybody equally without any discrimination. It takes us into the lap. We are here safe from the tension of the day's work. In his view, sleep proves an equalizing factor. It refreshes us and makes us ready for the next day's labor.

We should be thankful to God who provides us the blessing of sleep. It saves us from the nervous breakdown of everyday life. In short, we can say that sleep has a great influence on human beings. Its influence is not only on human beings but also on animals.

In this poem, we are told about some signs of sleep which make a man unconscious of his daily routine. The poet compares deep sleep to a measurable forest wherein everybody, whether going straight or astray, is to lose his way.

Coming to the borders of sleep means the moments just before falling asleep. It is the time when a man is on the verge of sleep. The poet has called sleep a deep forest in which everyone has to enter. Everybody is bound to follow the call of sleep.

Question 2

What does many a road track signify in Lights Out?

Answer

Lights Out is a beautiful poem on the power of sleep. Sleep is a gift of Nature. It helps us in forgetting everything and bringing peace and comfort to us. The poet compares the sleep with a deep forest where he loses himself.

He is transferred from the known to the unknown world. For him, sleep is an equalizing factor bringing the rich and poor, the good and the bad to the same level. We forget our worldly worries and pleasures. 

We cannot simply resist it. We put the lights out and enjoy a peaceful slumber. The poem is a fascinating, enchanting, captivating, and spellbinding poem on sleep. The poet points out that sleep is the most powerful and pleasant experience of man's life.

When sleep overpowers us, we have to leave many a road track. The basic theme or central idea of the poem is based on human sleep. Sleep comes to everyone. Weare forced to leave all our worldly works. We must forget all our passions, wishes, desires, and high goals when sleep comes. 

Even we forget our own identity after the arrival of sleep. He compares sleep with a thick, deep forest in which everyone loses his way. He admires sleep because it makes us forget our worries and brings peace and comfort to us.

Question 3 

Discuss the atmosphere of the poem Lights Out

Comment on the title of the poem Lights Out. Do you think it suitable or not?

Answer

In the poem, Lights Out Edward Thomas describes the overwhelming effect of sleep on man. He says that man has to yield to sleep at all costs. Sleep works as a balm because it heals man's disappointments. 

The poet also expresses his thankfulness to sleep for the comforts it provides. The poet has compared sleep with a forest. This forest is very deep and no man can measure it. It is very mysterious. Anybody who comes in it either he is good or bad, loses his way.

The unfathomable deep       Forest where all must lose

Sleep controls everyone. No one can deny its orders. Everyone is bound to follow it. It is like a cruel dictator who just gives orders.

Despair, ambition ends   All pleasures and all trouble

Sleep has a magical effect on people. When sleep comes, everyone turns his face even from a beautiful face, an interesting book, and a noble task.

There is not any book     Or face of dearest look

Therefore, the title given to this poem is quite suitable. It suggests the vague and confused state of mind of the man who is on the verge of falling asleep. It also hints at how a man would lose himself in the dark world of sleep and oblivion. 

The act of sleep will cut him off from the known and familiar world of daily life. In the end, we can say that whether a man wishes or not, he can not run away from entering into the lap of death and sleep. 

The difference between sleep and death is that the former refreshes us to combat the challenges of life while the latter relieves us from the anxieties of life. When the time comes, we are to pass through the borders of sleep. When night comes, our activities come to an end, the lights are out and we are ready to sleep.

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