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Written Near a Port on a Dark Evening Summary & Analysis
by Charlotte Smith

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The Romantic poet Charlotte Smith wrote "Written Near a Port on a Dark Evening" sometime around the year 1800. A Romantic sonnet, the poem describes a dark and moody scene of an ocean at night. The speaker presents this setting as lonely and "remote," with both the breaking waves and sailors' voices sounding extraordinarily far away. Even lights on the horizon can't be trusted to guide one through such darkness, the speaker says, going on to compare these misleading lights to the way that reason itself ultimately fails to address life's many uncertainties. The poem can be thought of as an extended metaphor for the idea that life is as unknowable and disorienting as the vast ocean at night, and that human rationality can only go so far when it comes to making sense of life's mysteries.

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