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Let Evening Come -- Jane Kenyon

Guest poem submitted by Kathy:
(Poem #1066) Let Evening Come
 Let the light of late afternoon
 shine through chinks in the barn, moving
 up the bales as the sun moves down.

 Let the cricket take up chafing
 as a woman takes up her needles
 and her yarn. Let evening come.

 Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
 in long grass. Let the stars appear
 and the moon disclose her silver horn.

 Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
 Let the wind die down. Let the shed
 go black inside. Let evening come.

 To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
 in the oats, to air in the lung
 let evening come.

 Let it come, as it will, and don't
 be afraid. God does not leave us
 comfortless, so let evening come.
-- Jane Kenyon
Those of us who had the good fortune of spending at least some of our
childhood in a rural setting must understand this poem in a different way
than those without that experience. Still, any child who has taken the time
to listen to a cricket chirping on a hot summer night knows something about
this poem.

By showing us the dew gathering, the stars and moon appearing, and a bottle
lying in a ditch, Jane Kenyon reveals the enduring peace of the natural
world. Her ability to perceive this peace seems especially remarkable in
light of her long struggle with bipolar disease. She knew well that the
evening and darkness will come, but she also knew that there was comfort in
the middle of the darkness.

I can't read this poem without thinking of Dylan Thomas' Fern Hill. The
sense of the sacramental nature of the physical world pervades them both and
I suppose for that reason they are two of my favorite poems.


[Minstrels Links]

Jane Kenyon:
Poem #474, Otherwise
Poem #1004, Finding a Long Gray Hair
Poem #1066, Let Evening Come

Dylan Thomas:
Poem #14, Prologue
Poem #38, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Poem #58, The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower
Poem #138, Fern Hill
Poem #225, Poem In October
Poem #270, Under Milk Wood
Poem #335, After the Funeral (In memory of Ann Jones)
Poem #405, Altarwise by Owl-Light (Stanzas I - IV)
Poem #476, In my craft or sullen art
Poem #568, Especially when the October Wind
Poem #1035, The Hand that Signed the Paper

68 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Chris Douglass said...

Jane Kenyon wrote this poem for my friend, her minister, Jack Jensen. He was dying from cancer, and she wrote this poem and brought it to him after one of his long stays in the Dartmouth Hospital cancer wing.

The last time I saw Jack alive - during February vacation - he showed me the poem. He, the minister to so many lost souls, sighed. He could not put into words the loss that he believed he would have to face soon. Dylan's poem "Do not go gently into the night" was more his tone, though he hid his feelings to protect his wife and family from his fate.

I see him standing on the porch, weak and diminished, looking out towards me as I drove away. I never saw him again in the flesh. I have felt diminished ever since. A light had been extinguished in my life.

Jane loved Jack and wrote a tribute to his approaching death. I wish that both Jack and I could have shared her faith as so beautifully captured in her poem and in her hymns that she sang Jack on the last night of his life.

Respectfully submitted,

Chris Douglass
a friend of Jack Jensen for three decades and an acquaintance of Jane Kenyon based on that friendship.

Donald Hall and I spoke at Jack's funeral.

Jimgold said...

"Let evening come" evoked an emotion in me that I have not yet analyzed. I
can say that it takes an effort of will to remember to breathe just now. It is
that good.

Byron Keith said...

Jane Kenyon wrote this poem in response to finding out that her husband
had terminal cancer. A gentleman named Brian Holmes set the poem to
music and around the first performance, Jane, herself, died of cancer.
Her husband survived her. Holmes' setting is lush and beautiful. I know
it because my choir has performed it -


carol251 said...

I'd never read Fern Hill, and after reading your comments on Kenyon's
"Let Evening Come.." I linked over to it. Amazing how we influence each
other - Kenyon MUST have known this poem. This would make a great
discussion in my poetry group here at a retirement home full of retired
missionaries, ministers and just plain folks with a love of literature,
theology, psychology and discussion!

Thanks for your internet pages.

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My favorite phrase is this: Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

I think that it is very romantic and nice , I love it.

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