Examining a poem in detail can bring out new meanings and ideas. By careful analysis, the full beauty of the poem can be appreciated. The poem “Lucifer in Starlight (p.
959)”, by George Meredith, can be analyzed to refine the authors purpose, by examining every subtle hint, every possibility, for a deeper theme. Also, “deciphering” formal literary techniques such as metaphor, connotation, and symbolism is the key to unlock other expressions. The main theme of the poem is that Lucifer has no place out of his hell, and anything he tries to reenter heaven is futile. As with any poem, it is best to first examine how the title, “Lucifer in Starlight” relates to the body of the poem. Obviously, Lucifer is the defiant angel that was banished from heaven, and sent to the underworld of hell, where he known as Satan. The title refers to the devil as “in starlight”, so this means he has to rise to a place where the stars are visible, not the fires of hell. This rising from the underworld is summed up in the first line.
It is later explained that he is doing so because he is tired of his dark dominion.” Ironically, the first line refers to Lucifer honorably, as a “Prince”, while in the second line he is tagged as a fiend. This leaves the reader feeling perplexed, yet still thinking of Lucifer as the enemy. At first it may seem as Lucifer has risen to the Earth, but it is further clarified that he has elevated himself above the “rolling ball”. However, god imagined the world as planar, with heaven on a higher plane, and hell on a lower plane, not spherical as defined here. From his place in the stars above earth, Lucifer looks down through the clouds, and observes the sinners. He is talking about the denizens of the earth, for since Adam sinned in the beginning, all of his sons and daughters are also sinners. Perhaps he can relate to them, as he is also trying for entrance to heaven.
For now , he sets his mind on the people who will become denizens of his hell eventually. Here Meredith shows how much hubris the devil really has, for the reader can just see Lucifer savoring over the masses entering his vile domain. Then, Lucifer peers at the most extreme places in the world, describing the sands of Africa. The Sahara desert with its barren, endless, undeveloped sand can seem like hell to anybody. Satan identifies and likes it, cherishes it, for it is like his home. Then Meredith contrasts the sand with the barren, endless, undeveloped Arctic tundra.
However, he describes Lucifer as peering at the “black planet.” Whether this phrase stands for the darkness of night, or the darkness he has brought by rising is unclear. After inspecting the most inhospitable areas, Lucifer peers at the developed world. It reminds him of the same “Awe”, or heaven, which he was banished from. Unlike the Arctic and the Sahara, the technological countries with quality of life appeal to him, much like heaven. Lucifer knows, however, that his only place is in hell, and his futile attempts will most likely fail.
Rising higher and higher, Lucifer looks up and gazes at heaven. His ultimate goal, is so close, but then at the last moment, when he is about to proceed to his destination, he feels the force of god blocking his path, and sinks back to his world. Meredith describes this as the “unalterable law”, that everything has its own place in this world, another traditional idea. This law also proves this is not a “poem of initiation”, because Lucifer has tried to break this law, but has been stopped many times without learning anything. The structure of this poem is also strangely erratic. Most of the poem is written in rimed iambic pentameter, but whenever anything pertains to Lucifer directly, the lines are indented and there are twelve syllables per line. Perhaps this is because Meredith is trying to show Lucifers domination. Also the poem follows the sonnets form of fourteen lines, but there are not quatrains.
Instead there Are sections of 5, 5, 2, and a final couplet. By deviated from the standard, Meredith creates a brilliant work of art. In this exceptional work, Meredith shows the menace of the devil, and then his helplessness against god. The devil has only one home, which is hell, and Meredith proves that. Meredith combines irony, with his own distinctive style and tone, to portray the ordeal quite realistically.
By the caliber of Merediths writing, this poem is worthy for more than just a place in a English book. ————————————————————–