Below are some poems and excerpts from other literature that talk about light. The writers express light with words that evoke our own experiences of light—it's one of the wonderful things about art: one medium can express a sensation or feeling or image that is expressable in another medium and the gap between the two allows us to imagine a new reality.

Read the literary excerpts below and pick TWO examples that you find visually evocative and personally meaningful.

Then find research images that describe that the visual experience of light that the literature evokes.

Write a paragraph or two for each of the literary examples that you have chosen that explains your choises.

Share these with the class—you may expand what you have written with further explanation or dicussion.

Turn in your homework by emailing me the images and your writing about them (a Word doc. is easiest) at Use the title "359 LIGHT IN LIT. your last name" in the subject line of the email AND make it the file name for the doc.

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God is the Light of the heavens and the earth.The parable of His Lightis as if there were a Niche,and within it a Lamp;the Lamp enclosed in Glass:The Glass as it were a brilliant star:Lit from a blessed Tree,an olive neither of the East nor of the West,Whose oil is well-nigh luminous,though fire scarce touched it.Light upon Light!God guides whom He will to His Light:God sets forth parables for men, and God knows all things.

Qur'an 24.35 

Your eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is sound, your whole body is full of light; but when it is not sound, your body is full of darkness.Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then yourwhole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be whollybright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.

The Bible, Book of Luke, 11.34-36 

A Light exists in Spring

Not present on the Year

At any other period —

When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad

On Solitary Fields

That Science cannot overtake

But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,

It shows the furthest Tree

Upon the furthest Slope you know

It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step

Or Noons report away

Without the Formula of sound

It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss

Affecting our Content

As Trade had suddenly encroached

Upon a Sacrament.

Emily Dickinson (1830–86).  Complete Poems.  1924.

There’s a certain Slant of light,

Winter Afternoons —

That oppresses, like the Heft

Of Cathedral Tunes —

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us —

We can find no scar,

But internal difference,

Where the Meanings, are —

None may teach it — Any —

’Tis the Seal Despair —

An imperial affliction

Sent us of the Air —

When it comes, the Landscape listens —

Shadows — hold their breath —

When it goes, ’tis like the Distance

On the look of Death —

Emily Dickinson (1830–86).  Complete Poems.  1924.

I’ll tell you how the Sun rose –

A Ribbon at a time –

The steeples swam in Amethyst

The news, like Squirrels, ran –

The Hills untied their Bonnets –

The Bobolinks – begun –

Then I said softly to myself –

“That must have been the Sun”!

But how he set – I know not –

There seemed a purple stile

That little Yellow boys and girls

Were climbing all the while –

Till when they reached the other side –

A Dominie in Gray –

Put gently up the evening Bars –

And led the flock away –

Emily Dickinson (1830–86).  Complete Poems.  1924.

How the old mountains drip with sunset,

  And the brake of dun!

How the hemlocks are tipped in tinsel

  By the wizard sun!


How the old steeples hand the scarlet,


  Till the ball is full,—

Have I the lip of the flamingo

  That I dare to tell?


Then, how the fire ebbs like billows,

  Touching all the grass


With a departing, sapphire feature,

  As if a duchess pass!


How a small dusk crawls on the village

  Till the houses blot;

And the odd flambeaux no men carry


  Glimmer on the spot!


Now it is night in nest and kennel,

  And where was the wood,

Just a dome of abyss is nodding

  Into solitude!—



These are the visions baffled Guido;

  Titian never told;

Domenichino dropped the pencil,

  Powerless to unfold.

Emily Dickinson (1830–86).  Complete Poems.  1924.

The moon was but a chin of gold

  A night or two ago,

And now she turns her perfect face

  Upon the world below.


Her forehead is of amplest blond;


  Her cheek like beryl stone;

Her eye unto the summer dew

  The likest I have known.


Her lips of amber never part;

  But what must be the smile


Upon her friend she could bestow

  Were such her silver will!


And what a privilege to be

  But the remotest star!

For certainly her way might pass


  Beside your twinkling door.


Her bonnet is the firmament,

  The universe her shoe,

The stars the trinkets at her belt,

  Her dimities of blue.

Emily Dickinson (1830–86).  Complete Poems.  1924.

Poem About Light

You can try to strangle light: 

use your hands and think 

you've found the throat of it, 

but you haven't. 

You could use a rope or a garrote 

or a telephone cord, 

but the light, amorphous, implacable, 

will make a fool of you in the end.

You could make it your mission 

to shut it out forever, 

to crouch in the dark, 

the blinds pulled tight—

still, in the morning, 

a gleaming little ray will betray you, poking 

its optimistic finger 

through a corner of the blind, 

and then more light, 

clever, nervy, impossible, 

spilling out from the crevices 

warming the shade.

This is the stubborn sun, 

choosing to rise, 

like it did yesterday, 

like it will tomorrow. 

You have nothing to do with it. 

The sun makes its own history; 

light has its way.

Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno

The twilight was white, and it lasted for a long while. Time in August could be divided into four parts: morning, afternoon, twilight, and dark. At twilight, the sky became a curious blue-green which soon faded to white. The air was soft grey, and the arbor and trees were slowly darkening. It was the hour when sparrows gathered and whirled above the rooftops of the town, and when, in the darkened elms along the street, there was the august sound of the cicadas. Noises at twilight had a blurred sound, and they lingered: the slam of a door down the street, voices of children, the whir of a lawn mower from a yard somewhere.

Carson McCullers:  The Member of the Wedding


White in the moon the long road lies,

  The moon stands blank above;

White in the moon the long road lies

  That leads me from my love.

Still hangs the hedge without a gust,

  Still, still the shadows stay:

My feet upon the moonlit dust

  Pursue the ceaseless way.

The world is round, so travelers tell,

  And straight though reach the track,

Trudge on, trudge on, 'twill all be well,

  The way will guide one back.

But ere the circle homeward hies

  Far, far must it remove:

White in the moon the long road lies

  That leads me from my love.

A.E. Housman

THETR 359:

Light in Literature Project