Analysis on the poem “Night Sweat” by Robert Lowell 

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Discuss the following poem in detail, considering ways in which Lowell presents the narrator’s state of mind

Night sweat was written by Robert Lowell. Lowell was seen as the greatest American poet of his time. This poem is two Shakespearian sonnets. The subject of this poem is that Lowell is incapable to write due to his writer’s block. It is vastly ironic that Lowell is writing about not being able to write. The poem evokes to the reader about the state of mind of Lowell, Lowell is the narrator of the poem.

Lowell is confused and scared about his state of mind, he does not know if he will get his creative writing back. Lowell writes about being tired and nervous strain caused by life as a writer. He wakes repeatedly covered in sweat which beings as a “a creeping damp” and later becomes, “a heap of wet clothes, seamy, shivering” caused by, “my life’s fever, one life, one writing!” the tension is extreme and seems possible it might derive from more than just the need to write. In the second sonnet Lowell opens with a direct appeal to his wife and the language becomes nightmarish, “my lead eyelids”, “gray skulled horses”, “the soot of night”.

“Work-table, litter, books and standing lamp, plain thing, my stalled equipment, the old broom” is a metaphor for the poet’s confused state of mind; “my stalled equipment” is a reference to Lowell’s writers block. The ellipsis after broom is there to give the reader a second to picture this in their minds. We know Lowell is talking about his mind because he says “but I am living in a tidied room”. “Troubled waters” is a metaphor for his state of mind.

The rhyme scheme is constant until the last sestet and the rhyme changes at the last sestet because the poet is evoking his anguish by changing his rhyme scheme; changing the mood. The poet has chosen to use his writing to evoke to the reader the anguish that he is suffering. Lowell uses a lot of pauses in this poem so the reader can picture the image of his frustration and confusion.

The poet uses a lot of alliteration in the poem, “wilted” and “white”, “sweat salt” which is also an oxymoron , “soaking” and “sweat”, “dabble” and “dapple”. Lowell also uses a lot of reparation in the poem, “one life, one writing!” Lowell is trying to express the urgency of this problem evoked by the reparation of the word “one” and the exclamation mark. There is also a lot of personafaction in this poem,” creeping damp float”, “my life’s fever”, “bedding washed with light” and “this world’s dead weight”. Triple assonance “inside”, “child” and “died” and “dabble” and “dapple” are also assonance. There is hyperbole in the poem, “my child exploding into dynamite”. All this grouped together gives an enormously negative view, however when he talks about his wife, he suddenly has hope, “your lightness alters everything”.

The poet is trying to evoke to the reader how confused his state of mind really is, the devices used in this poem by Lowell are hugely effective, he shows successful just how confused and frustrated his state of mind has become. I like “Night Sweat”, I think the poem is amusingly ironic that the poet, Lowell, feels that he is unable to write and thus writing a poem about not being able to write. However the poem has a dark and negative mood yet I like the way he writes and the devices that he used in this poem.

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