Virginia Lucas Poetry Scrapbook

Formal Elements of "Twilight" by Fitz-greene Halleck

The transcription of Fitz-greene Halleck’s poem “Twilight” in Virginia Lucas’s scrapbook differs from official versions because of the way in which Virginia Lucas chose to transcribe the poem. There was not enough space in the allotted section of the page for the complete lines to be written, so lines are sometimes broken in the middle and centered under the first part of the line. In Virginia Lucas’s version of the poem, there are four stanzas, the third of which is split, continuing into a new column because of a lack of space at the bottom of the page. Because of these alterations, Virginia Lucas’s version of the poem has 53 lines as opposed to the original 40. Because the meter is fairly regular, the rhyme scheme is fairly apparent as ABABCDCDEE / FGFGHIHIJJ / KLKLMNMNOO / PQPQRARATT, with each stanza consisting of two quatrains followed by a couplet.

Most lines of the poem consist of iambic pentameter (a series of five unstressed-stressed feet). The emphasis is on the second syllables as evidenced in the example, “There is an evening twilight of the heart” (line 1). The italics represent stressed syllables. An exception to the consistent use of iambic pentameter is the final line in the first three stanzas, which are iambic hexameter; however, notably, the final line in the final stanza maintains the iambic pentameter for its final line.

The syntactic style of “Twilight” utilizes some instances of inverted syntax (“Dear are her whispers still, though lost / their early power,” line 11). This has the effect of making the reader slow down as they read, as inverted sentences require more focus to understand and read correctly. Because of this, the sound of the poem is dreamlike and otherworldly. There is a level of formality and poetic elevation which comes from this, giving the poem timeless appeal.

The sounds in the poem vary from stanza to stanza, but most exhibit voiced consonant phrases, with many “l,” “t,” and “b” sounds (i.e. “Life’s little world of bliss was newly born,” line 20) making the poem sound more dramatic since strong enunciation becomes a central part of its recitation. Halleck also uses the literary device of personification (“With dancing heart we gazed on the pure sky,” line 23) in order to heighten the emotionality of the poem and dramatize the beauty of nature spoken about throughout the poem.

In the official version of the poem, there are a few instances of caesura, which is a structural pause within a line, intended to prevent the reader from moving too quickly into either the next line or the next word within a line. In Virginia Lucas’s rendition of the poem, there is only one example of a caesura presented in the beginning of the third stanza (“And manhood felt her sway too—on the eye,” line 27), creating a dramatic pause and allowing the reader a moment to reflect on the imagery of “the eye.” Otherwise, there are many instances of enjambment (the continuation of a single, unbroken phrase to the next line) throughout the poem. The enjambment of much of the imagery in the poem reinforces it and allows it build up, creating a more intensely striking ambience.

Return to the poem