The Blogora: The Rhetoric Society of America


from James Agee, "Description of Elysium"

Submitted by Jim Aune on June 10, 2009 - 6:30am

"Description of Elysium," from Permit Me Voyage... 1934

Sure on this shining night
Of starmade shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.

The late year lies down the north
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole

Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder wand'ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars.

And Samuel Barber's song:

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Submitted by JaimeDegnan (not verified) on November 26, 2016 - 6:18am.

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Submitted by lissinda (not verified) on February 23, 2012 - 2:18pm.

I weep for wonder wand'ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars

We are a french amateur choir and we are learning this song. I don't really understand the meaning of this sentence, especially "wandering far alone of shadows".
If someone could explain it to me, that would be very kind and helpful for singing.
Thanks a lot.

Submitted by Another (not verified) on December 26, 2012 - 7:56pm.

Existence is a great mystery. Poetry often prompts us to plumb its depths, our depths, by posing ambiguous words. The author's intended meaning/s is/are not obvious or certain, even to a native English speaker. These words recall the first stanza and evoke from me "Alive where stars cast shadows on my ground, my wondering mind wandering far and alone, I weep that somehow, beyond me, there are shadows cast upon the stars." Was Agee responding to events of the world, or of his heart, or both?

Submitted by Jim Aune on December 21, 2011 - 9:30pm.

Goes to "A Reader." I think I'll trust Samuel Barber's judgment.

Submitted by A Reader (not verified) on November 29, 2011 - 8:39am.

The title of this poem is not "Description of Elysium." That is a separate poem on the same page of Agee's early collection Permit Me Voyage.

The lyric in question has no title proper as such; it is simply known by its first line, "Sure on this shining night."

If you will look at any book of Agee's poems (e.g. the one edited by Robert Fitzgerald) you will see. "Description of Elysium" is an entirely different poem.

Submitted by Anonymous2 (not verified) on December 21, 2011 - 6:04pm.

Actually, "Sure on this shining night" is taken from a poem entitled Description of Elysium. The song uses several verses taken from the middle of the longer poem.

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