The HyperTexts

"In the Whispering Night"
a poem by Michael R. Burch

Form, Theme, Analysis and Meaning

In the Whispering Night
a poem by Michael R. Burch, circa age 18

for George King

In the whispering night, when the stars bend low
till the hills ignite to a shining flame,
when a shower of meteors streaks the sky
as the lilies sigh in their beds, for shame,
we must steal our souls, as they once were stolen,
and gather our vigor, and all our intent.
We must heave our husks into some savage ocean
and laugh as they shatter, and never repent.
We must dance in the darkness as stars dance before us,
soar, Soar! through the night on a butterfly's breeze:
blown high, upward-yearning, twin spirits returning
to the heights of awareness from which we were seized.

Published by Songs of Innocence, Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Life & Times, The Chained Muse and New Lyre

Form: "In the Whispering Night" is close to a sonnet in length but lacks the closing couplet that would make it 14 lines. Every other line is end-rhymed but there is a preponderance of other rhymes as noted below. which I wrote at age 18 as a college freshman for my favorite English teacher and fellow poet, George King.

This "rhyme rich" poem features 28 internal and end rhymes in 12 lines:

In the whispering night[a], when the stars bend low
till the hills ignite[a] to a shining flame[b],
when a shower[c] of meteors[c] streaks the sky[d]
as the lilies sigh[d] in their beds, for shame [b],
we must steal our souls, as they once were stolen[e],
and gather[f] our vigor[f], and all our intent[g].
We must heave our husks into some savage[e] ocean[e]
and laugh as they shatter[h], and never[h] repent[g].
We must dance in the darkness as stars dance before[i] us,
soar[i], Soar![i] through the night[j] on a butterfly[k]'s breeze[l]:
blown high[j], upward-yearning[m], twin spirits returning[m]
to the heights[j] of awareness from which we were seized[l].

Theme, Analysis and Meaning: I wrote "In the Whispering Night" in a sudden burst of inspiration after a meeting with George King, my favorite college English teacher, early during my freshman year. I believe I was 18 at the time. "In the Whispering Night" is a Romantic poem about poetic kinship, about two travelers on a similar path. He was a poet, the first "real poet" that I had met. I intended to be a poet. George later told me that I was one of the two best poets he taught. But I had every intention of topping the list. I like to think "In the Whispering Night" was a step in that direction.

Revisions: There have been two changes to the poem. I have changed line seven to "We must heave our husks into some savage ocean." And I have changed the closing line to "the heights of awareness" rather than "this world of resplendence."

Meter: The poem's meter is primarily anapestic. However, I must admit that I write poetry entirely by ear and have never once said to myself, "I need an anapest here" or "I need a trochee there." To be honest, I know what an iamb is and can't remember the definitions of the other metrical feet. But I have never felt the need for an iamb either.

Bio: Michael R. Burch is an American poet who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Beth, their son Jeremy, and three outrageously spoiled puppies. His poems, epigrams, translations, essays, articles, reviews, short stories and letters have appeared more than 4,000 times in publications which include TIME, USA Today, The Hindu, BBC Radio 3,, Daily Kos, The Washington Post, Light Quarterly, The Lyric, Measure, Writer's Digest—The Year's Best Writing, The Best of the Eclectic Muse, Unlikely Stories and hundreds of other literary journals, websites and blogs. Mike Burch is also the founder and editor-in-chief of The HyperTexts, a former columnist for the Nashville City Paper and, according to Google, a relevant online publisher of poems about the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the Trail of Tears, Darfur, Haiti, Gaza and the Palestinian Nakba. He has two published books, Violets for Beth (White Violet Press, 2012) and O, Terrible Angel (Ancient Cypress Press, 2013). A third book, Auschwitz Rose, is still in the chute but long delayed. Burch's poetry has been translated into eleven languages and set to music by the composers Mark Buller, Alexander Comitas and Seth M. Smith. One of his poems, "First They Came for the Muslims," has been adopted by Amnesty International for its Words That Burn anthology, a free online resource for students and educators. He has also served as editor of International Poetry and Translations for the literary journal Better Than Starbucks.

For an expanded bio, circum vitae and career timeline of the poet, please click here: Michael R. Burch Expanded Bio.

Related Pages: "Davenport Tomorrow" Analysis, "Epitaph" Analysis, "Neglect" Analysis, "Passionate One" Analysis, "Poetry" Analysis,  "Something" Analysis, "Self Reflection" Analysis

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