Poetry Analysis: ‘winter Solstice’ By Hilda Morley1

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Hilda Morley’s ‘Winter Solstice’ is an overt poem primarily aimed at describing a winter solstice. Correspondingly, the author has dotted the poem with descriptive words meant to create a mental picture of a solstice in a reader. I actual sense, winter solstice is a descriptive term for the shortest day and longest night of a year. In the poem, Morley (1983) elaborately expresses intricate emotions that enliven to actual meaning of a winter solstice in a reader. Figuratively, the author, through the poem, paints the picture of time of the year (or a season) when a person ought to re-evaluate the whole reason for the their existence including such associated elements as fear, concerns, successes, sadness, happiness, and even sadness. From the author’s presupposed perspective, it suffices to say that the cold and long distance between the earth, sun’s light, and the moon will always be larger than life in its entirety. In this respect, it is clear that despite the direction of the analysis (figurative or actual), the elements of the poem and the overall meaning will remain more or less similar. The use of various literary elements and poetic devices ensures that ‘Winter Solstice’ is both entertaining and informative. The following discussion delves deep into the poem in a bid to deconstruct its general structure and unearth the literary devices and elements therein.

Perhaps the most striking feature of this poem is its unique structure and layout. According to Conniff (1993) the entire poem is more of a free verse that ignores the most basic of poetic rules and standards. In particular, it does not follow any definite rhyme scheme or pattern of syllables, making the overall rhythm irregular and unpredictable. While that may look like a mere preference of the author, it could figuratively signify the mood and nature of a winter solstice. It is during this time that people take a time off their busy schedules, free from the social rules, regulations, and standards, to relax and rethink their lives. As such, just like the structure of the poem, everyone ought to remain ‘free’ in a way. Hilda Morley’s ‘Winter Solstice’ is truly transcendental in nature.

In spite of the irregularity of the poem, it entails a variety of stylistic devices including repetition, alliteration, and personification among others. In the first line for instance, ‘Cold Night Crosses’ has two consonants repeated at the beginning of the three words consecutively following each other which exemplifies alliteration. Moreover, ‘cold night,’ though inanimate, has been given a human or animate characteristic of ‘crossing.’ Finally, the word ‘very’ and the phrase’ it is…’ have been repeated throughout the poem.

Aside from the stylistic devices, the poem generally signifies the birth of the sun given that a winter solstice happens on a day of the year that is the darkest. On this note, the sun could be interpreted to signify light (a brighter future or the possibilities). Extrapolating the poem gives a notion that it alludes to the start of a new life or a new beginning after a lost hope. The words ‘(the dance unmoving)’ are particularly special to the poem since they denote, figuratively, that the past troubles no longer matter; it is the future that and its prospects that do. Despite the deeply inscribed teachings from the poem, the author has managed to craftily attain the balance between information and entertainment that has always proven to be an uphill task for most poets. In conclusion, the poem has both overt and covert meanings. Nonetheless, the meaning remains similar as brought out by the wide spectrum of stylistic devices and structure used in the poem.



Conniff, B. (1993). Reconsidering Black Mountain: The Poetry of Hilda Morley. American Literature, 65(1), 117-130.

Morley, H. (1983). ‘Winter Solstice’ in To Hold in My Hand: Selected Poems, 1955-1983. Rhinebeck, NY: Sheep Meadow Press.

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