“Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light”
—“Darkness,” Lord Byron
This is probably one of my favorite poems. Dark and gruesome (deceptively so at first), “Darkness” embodies a tormented soul. All the horror and confusion of a sun snuffed out spills itself through the pen of Lord Byron.
But Byron’s real trick, and the reason I’ve always found myself drawn to the Romantics (who are not nearly as lovey-dovey as their name might sound to the uninitiated), is his grasp of human nature. Humans are a tangled bunch who, despite our many differences, share some fundamental similarities. Take away the sun, and it doesn’t matter how much money you have. Dry up all the water, and it doesn’t matter how many community service hours you logged in high school. Suck the air from our lungs, and we all collapse gasping.
“Darkness,” when read in its entirety, has very little to do with the sun. But you’ll have to read the whole poem to find out why. Maybe, when you revive yourself and leave the darkness, you’ll have found a new appreciation for the light.