Darkness is a poem written by Lord Byron in July-August 1816. There was a mass hysteria around this time following a prediction by an Italian astronomer that the sun would burn out and destroy the world. Increased sunspot activity and a volcanic eruption that clouded the sky, paled the sun, and dropped the temperatures gave more life to the prediction (Schurer et al., 094019). The composition of this poem was partially influenced by these natural phenomena. In the poem, Byron presents the apocalypse and the response of men. It is interesting how a poem written so many decades ago rings so true today. Reading the poem triggered so many thoughts, elicited mixed feelings, and taught a myriad of lessons.
When one reads the poem, the thoughts of what is going on around the world today come to mind. Though only three into the year, humankind has faced so many tragedies that have been interpreted by some quarters as signs of the end of the world. First, there was the standoff between the United States and Iran that got people talking about a possible nuclear war that would spell doom for the world (Ward). Before the situation completely cooled off, the COVID-19 pandemic erupted sending the entire world into chaos. The poem reveals a similarly chaotic world. Byron presents a society that is on the verge of collapse and humankind is desperately fighting to survive by feeding on wildlife and burning wood. People die in huge numbers, and the world is left barren and in darkness. This picture brings to mind the current situation in the world. The pandemic has already claimed thousands of lives and every country is fighting to save its citizens (Shammas et al). The year resembles 1816 so closely that one cannot help but think that if Byron were alive today, he would have composed an identical poem.
The dark and gloomy tone of the poem invokes a mixture of feelings in the reader. First, there is the feeling of fear. People do not understand the phenomena that are going. However, there is no doubt in them that a terrible thing is about to happen. Such a situation is bound to cause fear. Through the use of vivid imagery, Byron succeeds in amplifying the feeling of impending doom. As the catastrophes persist, the fear gives way to a deep sense of desperation. Every man is desperately trying to survive the apocalypse. They all frantically realize that all the riches and luxuries they had enjoyed mattered no more and would not save them. In this frenzy, they turn into savages in an attempt to save their lives. They even burn their homes to chase away the darkness, but when they look into each other's faces in the light of the fire, all they see is despair, making them weep and go mad. As more and more men die, a feeling of resignation sets in. The end is inevitable, and there is nothing they can do about it. In the end, the darkness conquers the universe.
Similarly, all these feelings are present as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic. People are fearful that they will contract the disease. As more and more people get infected, governments around the world are desperately trying to develop measures to counter the disease. Unfortunately, despite robust measures and systems in some countries, the virus keeps claiming hundreds of lives every day. Resultantly, citizens in those countries have almost resigned to their fate.
Other than the gloom and doom, the poem teaches several lessons. Through the poem, Byron seems to be emphasizing that despite status, all human beings are equal. In the poem, darkness serves as the equalizer. Both palaces and homes of peasants are burnt to give warmth and light. The fact that the darkness and the ensuing famine do not spare anyone also proves the same point. Everybody dies regardless of their moral persuasions or religions. However, it is the effects of the selfishness of man that are most prominent throughout the poem. Brady shows how the world that is ruled by weak and selfish men disintegrates leading to chaos that ultimately wipes out the entire population. Other creations, such as animals and plants, are also caught up in this destruction. The catastrophes can also be taken to represent the earth's vengeance for man's recklessness. In this, the poem teaches that inappropriate leadership will always lead to chaos and destruction. Humankind should also strive to care for the world and the rest of creation better.
While Darkness may easily pass as another haunting apocalyptic poem, it is packed with thoughts, emotions, and lessons that are as relevant today as they were in 1816. In several ways, the poem mirrors the chaos that characterizes the modern world. The fear, desperation, and resignation that people are presently facing are also well-captured in the poem. Most importantly, the poem reminds humanity of the importance of good leadership and the need to take good care of the environment.
Schurer, Andrew P., et al. "Disentangling the causes of the 1816 European year without a summer." AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts 14.9 (2019): 094019. <https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab3a10/meta>.
Shammas, Brittany, et al. "Live updates: Trump says quarantine for New York area 'will not be necessary'; U.S. coronavirus-related deaths double in two days." 29 March 2020. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/03/28/coronavirus-latest-news/. 29 March 2020.
Ward, Alex. "A nasty, brutal fight": what a US-Iran war would look like." 20 January 2020. Vox. 28 March 2020. <https://www.vox.com/world/2019/7/8/18693297/us-iran-war-trump-nuclear-iraq>.
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