PINNAPA PHETCHARATANA 11, 2010 Poetry Commentary

ENGLISH A1 HL

MAY

Night Wind by Christopher Dewdney is a poem that expresses the speaker’s desire and pleasure to be seized by what he/she believes to be a mysterious yet captivating force. Dewdney narrates from an ambiguous viewpoint- perhaps from a voice of an object or person that is completely under the wind’s influence. This technique places an emphasis on the wind’s dominance over both the speaker and its surroundings. Interesting aspects of Night Wind include the portrayal of the wind as a mystifying yet superior power in which the speaker surrenders him/herself to, the language used to express the wind’s impact on both the speaker’s spiritual and physical world, and the speaker’s desire to become physically united with the wind. In the opening lines of the poem, the speaker immediately establishes a relationship with the wind. “Tonight the wind blows through all the worlds I have known and all the lives I have led.” By observing the speaker’s O-assonance, which creates a somber and formal tone, readers can infer that the speaker considers the wind to be not just an important part of his/her life, but as a mystical and divine force that is present throughout eternity. During the first three stanzas of the poem, the speaker portrays the wind as an overpowering, liberated force that has taken control over him/her. “The night wind implores me through walls, claims me inside buildings.” This use of personification allows the wind to be depicted as a force that is powerful enough to ‘call on’ the speaker through solid, material objects, as if the wind were a spirit or ghost. However, by observing the speaker’s tone, it is obvious that he/she is willing to comply with the wind’s ‘requests.’ The continuous repetition of “The night wind…” in the second stanza adds a sense of obedience and reverence that the speaker feels towards the wind. It is as if the speaker considers the wind to be a god-like force; and this is further emphasized with a metaphor: “The night wind is an empire in exodus…” The wind’s movement is being compared to the mass emigration of the Israelites from Egypt (from the Bible) because

PINNAPA PHETCHARATANA MAY 11, 2010

ENGLISH A1 HL

both involve the state of ‘deliverance’- and in the wind’s case- to blow freely, to ‘race without burden.’ Following this biblical allusion, the speaker mentions that the deliverance is “beside the dark shape of trees.” This creates a contrast between the free, unrestrained movements of the wind and the permanence of a tree. The tree’s permanence is underlined by the words ‘dark shape,’ which creates a short, rigid and detached tone. This highlights the fact that a tree is firm and fixed. On the contrary, the words used to describe the wind, ‘deliverance’ and ‘exodus,’ are spoken in splendor- creating a smooth, streaming sound. The wind’s freedom and supremacy is underlined through the speaker’s diction and tone and the use of contrast against the unchanging elements of nature. The wind’s ability to create an impact on both the physical and spiritual world is subtly hinted throughout the poem. The speaker mentions that the wind “blows in the trees” (line 4) and “through forests and beside highways” (line 35). These characteristics are typical for a wind. However, the speaker also regards the wind in terms of spirituality. Referring back to the first stanza in the first three lines, readers can interpret right away that the wind plays a significant role in the speaker’s spiritual (non-physical) world: “The wind blows through all the worlds I have known and through all the lives I have led.” The speaker sees the wind as a force that is eternal, transcendent, and always present throughout his chain of conscience rather than just a movement of the air that blows against trees and material objects. The speaker expresses his/her desire to physically be united with the wind. This is first shown in the third stanza, when the speaker joins the wind as it “takes me in its giddy rush and gathers me into a storm of longing.” These words are spoken with passion and admiration. Once the speaker has been in contact with the wind, he/she becomes seduced by its magnificence and becomes lost in his/her fantasy world. The speaker further experiences illusions, and this is emphasized through exaggerations: “rising on wings of darkness” and hearing “music in the wind,” which are the sounds of branches and leaves rustling. In the fourth stanza, the speaker finally becomes part of the wind, and he/she

PINNAPA PHETCHARATANA 11, 2010

ENGLISH A1 HL

MAY

describes the fascinating experience. “Above me the Milky Way…” The wind takes the speaker up high above the ordinary planet, just under the Milky Way- a symbol for the bigger, unknown world of mystery filled with billions of stars. This could also be linked to the previous mentioning of the wind’s impact on the spiritual world. Furthermore the speaker claims, “I am the bloodrun of the atmosphere.” It is as if the speaker becomes the wind, but only temporary. A sense of reality returns as he/she returns to the ordinary world and thus describes the experience of “racing with leaves and newspapers down deserted streets, over fields and playgrounds.” There is a distinct tone change as the speaker initially evokes a mood of fantasy and delusions, which has been followed by a dull and monotonous statement. It is almost as if the speaker was aware that he/she was living only in a momentary fantasy and thus decides to return back to the real world. Having known that he/she cannot exist on the same plane as the wind due to its superiority, the speaker finally decides to “pace the wind through forests and beside highways,” following its tail wherever it leads him/her to, like a minion being guided by a leader. The speaker continues to be captivated and allured by the wind’s stealth power over him/her, its ‘unspoken imperative’- a feature that causes the wind to become his/her object of temptation. Thus the speaker willingly accepts the wind’s independence and claims that this enhances the wind’s mysterious features, making it a ‘joyous delirium’, an insane addiction that cannot be overcome. The poem’s title, Night Wind, is straightforward and unambiguous. Perhaps Dewdney chooses a nighttime setting in order to intensify the sense of mystery and fantasy and to strengthen the image of the stars and galaxy. During nighttime, everything seems to be more still and serene, thus readers can focus better on the movement of the wind and other elements of nature. The poem is broken down into five stanzas, each involving a different scene. This serves to underline the wind’s roles in different aspects, whether it is the physical world of trees and rivers or the metaphysical world of eternity. Overall, Night Wind is a poem that explores the idea of a natural force being able to take control of the speaker’s mind and to interact with spiritual elements.

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