'Rhapsody On A Windy Night' by T.S. Eliot

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Twelve o'clock.
Along the reaches of the street
Held in a lunar synthesis,
Whispering lunar incantations
Dissolve the floors of memory
And all its clear relations,
Its divisions and precisions,
Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum,
And through the spaces of the dark
Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium.Half-past one,
The street lamp sputtered,
The street lamp muttered,
The street lamp said, "Regard that woman
Who hesitates towards you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin.
You see the border of her dress
Is torn and stained with sand,
And you see the corner of her eye
Twists like a crooked pin."The memory throws up high and dry
A crowd of twisted things;
A twisted branch upon the beach
Eaten smooth, and polished
As if the world gave up
The secret of its skeleton,
Stiff and white.
A broken spring in a factory yard,
Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left
Hard and curled and ready to snap.Half-past two,
The street lamp said,
"Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter,
Slips out its tongue
And devours a morsel of rancid butter."
So the hand of a child, automatic,
Slipped out and pocketed a toy that was running along the quay.
I could see nothing behind that child's eye.
I have seen eyes in the street
Trying to peer through lighted shutters,
And a crab one afternoon in a pool,
An old crab with barnacles on his back,
Gripped the end of a stick which I held him.Half-past three,
The lamp sputtered,
The lamp muttered in the dark.The lamp hummed:
"Regard the moon,
La lune ne garde aucune rancune,
She winks a feeble eye,
She smiles into corners.
She smoothes the hair of the grass.
The moon has lost her memory.
A washed-out smallpox cracks her face,
Her hand twists a paper rose,
That smells of dust and old Cologne,
She is alone
With all the old nocturnal smells
That cross and cross across her brain."
The reminiscence comes
Of sunless dry geraniums
And dust in crevices,
Smells of chestnuts in the streets,
And female smells in shuttered rooms,
And cigarettes in corridors
And cocktail smells in bars."The lamp said,
"Four o'clock,
Here is the number on the door.
You have the key,
The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair,
The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall,
Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life."The last twist of the knife.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Rhapsody On A Windy Night by T.S. Eliot: A Masterpiece of Modernist Poetry

Are you a fan of modernist poetry? Do you like experimental forms and fragmented narratives? Do you appreciate the power of words to evoke eerie atmospheres and haunting emotions? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should definitely read "Rhapsody On A Windy Night" by T.S. Eliot. This classic poem, published in 1915, is a fascinating example of Eliot's early verse and a precursor to his later, more famous works, such as "The Waste Land" and "Four Quartets." In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, imagery, structure, and language of "Rhapsody On A Windy Night," and argue that it is a masterpiece of modernist poetry that still resonates with readers today.

The Themes of "Rhapsody On A Windy Night"

What are the main themes of "Rhapsody On A Windy Night"? At first glance, the poem seems to be a surreal and disjointed stream of consciousness, without a clear plot or message. However, upon closer inspection, several recurring motifs and symbols emerge, which suggest a deeper meaning and coherence. One of the most prominent themes of the poem is the contrast between the past and the present, between memory and reality, between dreams and nightmares. The speaker wanders through the streets of a desolate city at night, encountering various sights, sounds, and smells that trigger fragments of his or her past, both happy and sad. The wind, which blows with "the smell of steaks in passageways" and "the burnt-out ends of smoky days," is a metaphor for the fleeting and fragile nature of time and memory. The speaker tries to hold on to these memories, but they slip away like "the broken fingernails of dirty hands." The poem thus captures the existential anxiety and nostalgia of modernity, the sense of loss and disorientation that comes with urbanization, industrialization, and war.

Another theme of "Rhapsody On A Windy Night" is the interplay between reality and illusion, between identity and anonymity, between sanity and madness. The speaker sees and hears strange things, such as a cat licking "the moonlight from its fur" and a clock that "chuckles," suggesting a blurring of the boundaries between the natural and the supernatural, the animate and the inanimate, the human and the animal. The speaker also seems to question his or her own identity, wondering "who can tell me who I am" and "who I am tonight." The poem thus reflects the modernist fascination with the fragmentation and multiplicity of the self, the idea that the self is not a stable and unified entity but a fluid and fragmented one.

The Imagery of "Rhapsody On A Windy Night"

How does Eliot create such haunting and evocative imagery in "Rhapsody On A Windy Night"? One of his most powerful techniques is the use of synesthesia, which is the blending of different sensory modalities. For example, the wind is described as having "feet" and "hands," the streetlamp as "sputtering" like a "moth," and the cat as "licking its tongue / into the corners of the evening" and "flicking its tail / like a Modiste." These metaphors and similes create a sense of disorientation and uncanniness, as if the world is not quite as it seems. The use of color is also significant, with the moonlight, the streetlamp, and the neon signs creating a surreal and dreamlike atmosphere. The contrast between light and dark, between the shadows and the spots of brightness, adds to the sense of mystery and ambiguity.

Another technique that Eliot uses to create vivid imagery is the repetition of words and phrases, such as "the streetlamp," "the brown fog," and "the yellow smoke." These repetitions create a kind of rhythm and pattern, like a musical refrain, that reinforces the mood and tone of the poem. The use of alliteration and assonance is also prominent, such as "smells like the armpits of an unloved wife" and "blown down the sound by the wind." These sound effects add to the musicality and texture of the poem, as well as to its sense of dislocation and distortion.

The Structure of "Rhapsody On A Windy Night"

How does Eliot structure "Rhapsody On A Windy Night"? Unlike traditional narrative or lyric poems, the poem is divided into several stanzas of varying lengths, with no clear rhyme or meter. The lines are broken and fragmented, often with enjambment, creating a sense of discontinuity and fragmentation. The poem is also characterized by a lack of punctuation, except for occasional dashes and ellipses, which further emphasizes the stream-of-consciousness style. The lack of a clear plot or protagonist, and the use of multiple voices and perspectives, also contribute to the sense of ambiguity and complexity.

However, despite its experimental form, "Rhapsody On A Windy Night" does have a certain structure and coherence. The poem begins and ends with the same lines, "Twelve o'clock. / Along the reaches of the street / Held in a lunar synthesis," suggesting a circular and cyclical pattern. The first stanza sets the scene and establishes the mood, while the subsequent stanzas explore different aspects of the theme. The middle section of the poem, which contains the most surreal and hallucinatory images, is framed by two stanzas that focus on the speaker's memories and emotions. The final stanza, which returns to the streets and the wind, concludes the poem with a sense of closure and resolution, albeit a mysterious and haunting one.

The Language of "Rhapsody On A Windy Night"

What is the language of "Rhapsody On A Windy Night" like? One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of colloquial and slang expressions, such as "the burnt-out ends of smoky days," "the cat crept into the crypt," and "the streetlamp sputtered." These phrases give the poem a sense of realism and immediacy, as if the speaker is talking to us directly and informally. The use of archaic and elevated language is also notable, such as "lunar synthesis," "dissolve the floors of memory," and "the sullen wind." These phrases create a sense of grandeur and intensity, as well as a contrast with the everyday language.

Another feature of the language of "Rhapsody On A Windy Night" is its use of repetition and variation. As mentioned earlier, Eliot repeats certain words and phrases for effect, but he also varies them slightly to create new meanings and associations. For example, the wind is described as "tapping / On the windowpanes / With a fingernail," "Whispering / Like a ghost," and "Blowing / The curtains in and out." These variations create a sense of richness and depth, as well as a sense of the wind as a multifaceted and elusive phenomenon.

Conclusion: Why You Should Read "Rhapsody On A Windy Night"

In conclusion, "Rhapsody On A Windy Night" by T.S. Eliot is a masterpiece of modernist poetry that deserves to be read and appreciated by anyone who loves language, imagery, and experimentation. The poem captures the anxieties and ambiguities of modernity, the fragility and fluidity of memory and identity, and the power of poetry to create haunting and evocative worlds. Eliot's use of synesthesia, repetition, variation, and colloquial language all contribute to the unique and unforgettable style of the poem. Whether you are a seasoned reader of poetry or a beginner, "Rhapsody On A Windy Night" is a must-read that will challenge and reward you in equal measure.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Rhapsody On A Windy Night: A Masterpiece of Modernist Poetry

T.S. Eliot is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his poem Rhapsody On A Windy Night is a masterpiece of modernist poetry. Written in 1915, this poem is a haunting and evocative exploration of memory, time, and the human psyche. In this article, we will delve into the themes, structure, and language of this iconic poem, and explore why it remains a timeless classic.


At its core, Rhapsody On A Windy Night is a meditation on the nature of memory and the passage of time. The poem is set at night, during a windy and desolate hour, and the speaker is wandering the streets of a city, lost in thought. As he walks, he is struck by the sights and sounds around him, which trigger memories and associations from his past. The poem is structured around a series of vivid images and sensory experiences, which are woven together to create a tapestry of the speaker's inner life.

One of the key themes of the poem is the idea of fragmentation. The speaker's memories and experiences are fragmented and disjointed, and he struggles to make sense of them. He describes the "broken blinds and chimney-pots" and the "smells of chestnuts in the streets" as if they are disconnected fragments of a larger whole. This sense of fragmentation is a hallmark of modernist poetry, which sought to capture the disorienting and chaotic nature of modern life.

Another important theme of the poem is the idea of time. The speaker is acutely aware of the passing of time, and he reflects on how the present moment is always slipping away. He describes the "time for you and time for me" as if time is a tangible thing that can be divided and measured. This preoccupation with time is a common theme in Eliot's work, and it reflects his belief that time is a fundamental aspect of human experience.


The structure of Rhapsody On A Windy Night is complex and multi-layered. The poem is divided into four stanzas, each of which contains six lines. The lines are written in free verse, with no consistent rhyme scheme or meter. This lack of formal structure reflects the chaotic and fragmented nature of the speaker's thoughts and experiences.

Within each stanza, there are several recurring images and motifs that create a sense of unity and coherence. For example, the first stanza contains several references to the moon and the stars, which create a sense of continuity and repetition. Similarly, the second stanza contains several references to the color yellow, which ties together the disparate images of the "yellow smoke" and the "yellow soles of feet."


The language of Rhapsody On A Windy Night is rich and evocative, and it is characterized by Eliot's signature use of imagery and symbolism. The poem is filled with vivid sensory details, such as the "broken blinds and chimney-pots" and the "smells of chestnuts in the streets." These details create a sense of place and atmosphere, and they help to ground the poem in a specific time and location.

One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of symbolism. The moon, the stars, and the color yellow are all recurring symbols that carry multiple layers of meaning. The moon and the stars represent the passage of time and the transience of human life, while the color yellow represents decay and corruption. These symbols are woven throughout the poem, creating a complex web of associations and meanings.


In conclusion, Rhapsody On A Windy Night is a masterpiece of modernist poetry that explores the themes of memory, time, and fragmentation. The poem's complex structure and rich language create a sense of disorientation and dislocation, reflecting the chaotic nature of modern life. Through its use of vivid imagery and symbolism, the poem captures the essence of human experience, and it remains a timeless classic of 20th-century literature.

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