It would not be an exaggeration to call this poem opaque, though it may seem plain enough. And it would not be an exaggeration either to call this poem plain, though it may seem opaque enough. The poem's structure is plain, an enumeration, far from mechanical, of the life aspects of one night, an idealized night, an archetypal one, that allows for a great multiplicity of life acts associated with it. The precondition, the one precondition for such a night to take place is that this must happen "whilst Tyrant-Man do's sleep".
The opaqueness of the poem is due to the double fact that it is both written in heroic couplets and that it is not a poem of statement; it is a poem that evokes rather than denotes. Even when it seems to be voicing some stance, as happens at the end, it is muted and does not really represent a strong enough reversal as would be expected from a strong conclusion, as in a Shakespearean sonnet for example. The heroic couplets for their part deprive the poem of exhibiting though not necessarily experiencing true turns of thought. In a poem consisting of stanzas separated by white spaces, some transition is indicated by the white space, so that the transition itself can be suggestive of the significance of the stanza within the context of the poem and thus help the forming of an appreciation of the poem.
One needs to look hard therefore for the underlying turns of thought that might lead to a better understating o the springs of the this poem, where it comes from and where it goes to.
Little attention has been given to the title of the poem. The title refers to a reverie which is a state in which one fancifully muses about something, a scene or a memory. The word "nocturnal" suggests either that the reverie takes place by night or that it is simply about night without necessarily happening at night. Alternatively of course, it could be both, happening by night and about night. The ambiguity is just one level of a larger phenomenon....
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