Cedars and the westward sun.
The darkening sky. A man alone
Watches beside the fallen wall
The evening multitudes of sin
Crowd in upon us all.
For when the light fails they begin
Nocturnal sabotage among
The outcast and the loose of tongue,
The lax in walk, the murderers:
Our twilight universal curse.

Children are faultless in the wood,
Untouched. If they are later made
Scandal and index to their time,
It is that twilight brings for bread
The faculty of crime.
Only the idiot and the dead
Stand by, while who were young before
Wage insolent and guilty war
By night within that ancient house,
Immense, black, damned, anonymous.

Analysis, meaning and summary of John Berryman's poem The Curse


  1. Suzanne Joyce says:

    The brightness of the sun descends leaving us in darkness with no structure for defense as the growing activities of evil surrounds us of the unwanted, the crippled in soul, and the demented sinners. As they close in on us, no one, anywhere is safe from this curse.

    Children, though innocent, if they shall fall through the cracks of life, become disgraced and maliciously discredited, the void they hold becomes vessels for the dawn to fill with the food of crime where no one can witness this undertaking except the ones who cannot speak or understand. So the young become enraged with hate and evil and an active part of the curse in the darkness of night.
    This means that though evil lurks in the darkness, and no matter our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, we are still responsible for who we become? Who we were, who we are, and who we become, we hope are not touched by the curse in the darkness of life.

  2. edgar r. eslit says:

    The concept is clear. Ideas in the poem are like the great paintings of the Greeks. It shows us who we are, who we were, and who we could be if we can relate ourselves in the poem. Not all poems will mean the same thing to everyone, because as individuals, we bring unique experience to every poem we read. But we also must be careful to honor the poems we read by letting it say to us what it meant to say. To do this, we must listen to it, really LISTEN to it because, as such, it speaks a lot to me.

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