New Poetry*

The Lighted Window

Sara Teasdale

He said:
“In the winter dusk
When the pavements were gleaming with rain,
I walked thru a dingy street
Hurried, harassed,
Thinking of all my problems that never are solved.
Suddenly out of the mist, a flaring gas-jet
Shone from a huddled shop.
I saw thru the bleary window
A mass of playthings:
False-faces hung on strings,
Valentines, paper and tinsel,
Tops of scarlet and green,
Candy, marbles, jacks—
A confusion of color
Pathetically gaudy and cheap.
All of my boyhood
Rushed back.
Once more these things were treasures
Wildly desired.
With covetous eyes I looked again at the marbles,
The precious agates, the pee-wees, the chinies—
Then I passed on.

 

In the winter dusk,
The pavements were gleaming with rain;
There in the lighted window
I left my boyhood.”

I like the slightly depressed mood of the poem. I especially enjoy the setting with rain and the sense of nostalgia. There are many Foster elements in this poem. The season winter emphasizes the gloomy atmosphere and the loneliness of the speaker. The dusk signals the end of things, in this case the end of the speaker’s childhood innocence. The rain further adds to the sadness. The water also washes away the speaker’s past and completes his transformation into his new life, the life of an adult full of responsibilities and stress.

At first, the speaker appears frustrated and anxious. The sound of H in “hurried, harassed” resembles the sound of someone panting when walking quickly. Descriptions of his surroundings are simple: he is mostly staying inside his mind, worrying about the works to be done. Then a shift in tone and scenery occurred when the speaker arrives at the shop’s window. The readers suddenly get an explosion of colorful images, which underlines the shock the speaker feels when he sees the shop. The adjectives turn into brighter and more positive, such as changing from “dingy” into “desired” and “precious”. However, there is still a grey undertone behind the positivity in the scene. The speaker sees his childhood toys as “pathetically gaudy and cheap”. This shows that he has already half-adapted into the harsh adult world. However, despite such remarks the speaker still can not take his eyes off the toys. This is an internal struggle that only lasts an extremely short amount of time. The turmoil eventually ends with the adulthood indifference taking over. The turn makes the process of growing up feel mechanical and harsh. The sample and short line “Then I passed on” creates yet another sudden shift, cutting off the hopeful and warm feeling that came with the description of toys abruptly. The poem ends with the speaker hinting that he will forever lose his childhood innocence and memories, as he says in the last two lines, “There in the lighted window/ I left my boyhood.”

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