Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.
Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.
Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.
To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.
Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.
Jane Kenyon, “Let Evening Come” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. (Graywolf Press, 1990)
* Special thanks to reader Will G. for recommending this poem to us. Will said in his email, “One of (Kenyon’s) poems that I particularly love is “Let Evening Come”. To me this poem harbors a deep compassion that goes beyond sentient creatures to touch all forms including rakes and barn walls. Reading her poem is like returning to a favorite painting by Rothko. Every time I read the poem, I find new things in its colors.” Beautifully put, Will, thank you again. Words for the Year will be going on hiatus January 1; I’m grateful I could share Kenyon’s piece before our break.
3 thoughts on ““Let Evening Come” by Jane Kenyon”
Perhaps there’s a small echo of Auden’s “Funeral Blues” in this work, although the sentiment is the opposite.
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I had to look up Auden’s poem, but yes, I can definitely see why’d you say that. It has the same flow, doesn’t it? But definitely a less optimistic tone. Two sides to the same coin, perhaps?
For others reading, here is Auden’s poem, copied from:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
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You know what else has a similar echo, although with more of the pessimistic tone of Auden? “What’s Good” by Lou Reed.
(And to Will who shared Kenyon’s poem…I know we both lamented Kenyon’s too early death. Some of Reed’s lines in “What’s Good” make me think of her:
And what good was cancer in April
Why no good, no good at all
You loved a life others throw away nightly
It’s not fair, not fair at all)
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