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The Dark Ages

Dark Ages by John Reade

The years through which aught that hath life, O Sun,
Hath watched or felt thy rising, what are they
To those vast æons when, from night to day,
From dawn to dark, thy circuit thou didst run,
With none to greet thee or regret thee; none
To bless thy glowing harbinger of cloud,
Rose-tinted; none to sigh when, like a shroud,
The banner of Night proclaimed her victory won?
Yet, through that reign of seeming death, so long
To our imperfect ken, the marvellous force
Which means to ends adjusts in Nature’s plan
Was bringing to the birth that eye of man,
Which now, O Sun, surveys thy farthest course—
A speck amid the countless starry throng.

The poem reflects on the vast expanse of time through which the sun has existed and its role in the universe. Here’s a critical summary and analysis:


The poem contemplates the immense epochs during which the sun has risen and set, stretching back to periods far beyond human existence. The speaker contrasts these vast aeons with the relatively brief span during which life on Earth, especially human life, has observed and felt the sun’s presence. The poem highlights the sun’s unacknowledged journeys through the cosmos before any beings existed to appreciate its light and warmth. Despite the long era of seeming emptiness, the natural processes were at work, leading to the emergence of humans who now have the capacity to observe and reflect upon the sun’s path.



  1. Time and Eternity:
    • The poem delves into the concept of time, contrasting the brief span of human history with the incomprehensible length of cosmic time.
    • The “vast aeons” represent an almost eternal past when the sun existed without any observers.
  2. Existence and Observation:
    • There’s a significant focus on the existence of the sun before life, emphasizing the idea that the sun’s value and significance are not diminished by the lack of observers.
    • The emergence of human beings, who can now appreciate and contemplate the sun, is portrayed as a crucial development.
  3. Nature’s Plan and Evolution:
    • The poem suggests that nature has a plan, where everything from the sun’s existence to the development of human beings is part of a grand design.
    • The “marvellous force which means to ends adjusts in Nature’s plan” implies an inherent order and purpose in the natural world.

Structure and Form:

  • The poem is structured as a single, reflective stanza with a rhyme scheme that ties the lines together.
  • The use of enjambment helps to maintain the flow of thoughts and emphasizes the continuity of time and the seamless transition from one era to another.

Imagery and Symbolism:

  • The Sun: Symbolizes constancy and the passage of time. It also represents the source of life and enlightenment.
  • Night and Day: These opposing forces symbolize the cycle of existence, with the sun’s daily journey marking the rhythm of time.
  • The Birth of Human Sight: The “eye of man” symbolizes human consciousness and the ability to appreciate and reflect on the universe.

Tone and Mood:

  • The tone is contemplative and somewhat awe-inspiring, inviting the reader to ponder the vastness of time and the smallness of human existence in comparison.
  • The mood evokes a sense of wonder and humility, acknowledging both the insignificance and the significance of human life in the grand scheme of things.


The poem elegantly explores the themes of time, existence, and the evolution of life, using the sun as a central metaphor. It reflects on the grandeur of the cosmos and the unique position of humans as conscious observers within it. The interplay between the eternal presence of the sun and the relatively fleeting existence of humanity provides a profound commentary on our place in the universe.


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