18 pages 36 minutes read

Jane Kenyon

Let Evening Come

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1990

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Summary and Study Guide


Jane Kenyon was an award-winning poet and translator who often wrote bucolic-inspired poems from her home on a farm in New Hampshire. “Let Evening Come,” published in 1990 as part of Kenyon’s third collection of poetry of the same name, contemplates the natural shifts in nature and life. Kenyon represents these shifts through symbols and images such as light moving to darkness and life moving towards death. Kenyon’s poetry is described as quiet, soft, and stunningly beautiful. Called a Keatsian poet (after the Romanticist John Keats), Kenyon’s poems are contemplative and draw on the natural surroundings to comment on larger questions about life and existence. She often invokes the domestic and at times slips into the pastoral, calling on and idealizing rural, countryside life. “Let Evening Come” is a prime example of Kenyon’s fixation with coupling the outside and the inside, nature and the household or farm.

While most of Kenyon’s poems are in free verse and told from the first-person point of view, “Let Evening Come” is a unique addition to her oeuvre. Written from a third-person omniscient point-of-view and in a varied meter of iambic and anapestic feet, the poem—and the entire collection—extends Kenyon’s breadth as a poet and marks an exciting turning point in her career.

Poet Biography

Jane Kenyon (1947-1995) was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and she grew up in the Midwest. She attended the University of Michigan, where she earned a BA and MA. While studying at University of Michigan, Kenyon met poet Donald Hall, a resident professor there, and they married in 1972. Following their marriage, Hall and Kenyon moved to Eagle Pond Farm in New Hampshire.

During her poetic career, Kenyon published only four books of poetry, the first, From Room to Room, in 1978. Critics praise her poetry for its beauty and restraint. Kenyon, who lived most of her adult life on a New England Farm, took inspiration from nature’s cycles and the seasons of life. Her third collection of poems, Let Evening Come (1990), is a testament to this. In this collection, Kenyon explores nature’s cycles through the symbolism of “the fall of light from day to dusk to night, and the cycles of relationships with family and friends throughout a long span of years brought to a close by death” (“Jane Kenyon.” The Poetry Foundation).

Kenyon’s other two collections, The Boat of Quiet Hours (1986) and Constance (1993), are their own evolutions of her poetic journey. Both, however, are praised by critics and fans for their quiet truth, attention, and precision as well as their “well-judged rhythm and simple syntax” (“Jane Kenyon.” The Poetry Foundation). Kenyon also published a book of translation in 1985: The Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova. In 1981, Kenyon received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

At age 47, while serving as New Hampshire’s poet laureate, Kenyon died of leukemia. A well-remembered poet, Kenyon’s final collection, published posthumously, is called Otherwise: New and Selected Poems (1996). This collection contains 20 poems written in Kenyon’s final days (and also includes several poems from her earlier books). Kenyon’s poems often occupy the domestic space, but they are far from simple or irrelevant. They offer an important eye into domestic and rural life in New England, where she spent the last two decades of her life. In 1999, a collection of Kenyon’s prose and translations was published posthumously, called A Hundred White Daffodils: Essays, Interview, the Akhmatova Translations, Newspaper Columns, and One Poem.

Poem Text

Kenyon, Jane. “Let Evening Come.” 1990. The Poetry Foundation.


“Let Evening Come” explores the last light of day and the coming night. The poem’s six stanzas use several literary devices, most prominently anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase for dramatic effect. Kenyon’s repeated use of the word “Let” and the phrase “Let evening come” (Lines 6, 12, 18) rhythmically carries the poem as it documents various images related to a day’s close: Light lowering, crickets beginning to chirp, dew collecting, stars and the moon appearing, animals returning to their dens, and more.

While it may appear to be a simple poem about nature and a natural scene of dusk becoming night, the poem draws on larger symbols of darkness that echo death and the end of life. “Let Evening Come” closes with a reference to “air in the lung” (Line 14) and “God” (Line 17). Evoking a tone of calm and peace, the poem in its final lines beseeches its reader, “don’t / be afraid” (Lines 16-17), as the poem ends with the echoed, repeated phrase, “so let evening come” (Line 18).