decorated initial 'I'n "Evening of the Broads," A.C. Swinburne immediately introduces a device that will run through the entirety of the poem: paradoxical imagery. Swinburne initially juxtaposes a sunset with the "sterile waves and wastes of the land," possibly alluding to the time between life and death. Swinburne creates a landscape so barren and so ominous that the light of the sunset seems almost misplaced, even potentially anachronistic, as though it belongs within the rest of the shadows of the land. Swinburne uses contradictory couples to a great degree in this poem, namely the relationship between birth and death ("Out of the womb of the tomb, born of the seed of the grave"), sprits that are both "lovely" and "fearful," and shadow and light. Although many of Swinurne's paradoxes involve the use of positive imagery, the overall tone of the poem is overwhelmingly negative. Swinburne pays careful attention to the detail of this poem, possibly to illustrate the complexity of the moment between life and death—light and dark. Swinburne concludes the poem with the the death of twilight, foreboding imagery that not only gives the reader a glimpse of what is to come, but also a sense of closure.

Discussion Questions

Swinburne mentions the concept of the "sunset" in 6 different contexts, each alluding to a different concept. Explain why he would not choose another topic to expand upon. Why did he keep coming back to the "sunset"? What allegorical or symbolic purpose does it serve?

Swinburne uses contradictory images throughout the poem, do you think this is an effective way of conveying his message?

Swinburne's "Laus Veneris" (text) explores the topic of tragic love, which by nature of the topic, was a somber piece. "Evening of the Broads" also has a mellow and sorrowful tone — how are these two poems similar?

Swinburne uses the word "light" and "twilight" many times in this poem. Why do you suppose Swinburne chose "light" as his a point of emphasis?

Related Material

Victorian Web Main Overview A. C. Swinburne Aesthetes & Decadents Leading Questions

Last modified 19 March 2008