"Will There Be Starlight"
by Michael R. Burch
Form, Theme, Analysis and Meaning, Tone, Diction and Literary Devices
"Will There Be Starlight" is a poem I wrote in my teens and later dedicated to
my wife Beth because she reminded me of the poem's mysterious enchantress.
Will There Be Starlight
by Michael R. Burch
Will there be starlight
while she gathers
and sweet-scented heathers?
And will she find flowers,
or will she find thorns
guarding the petals
of roses unborn?
Will there be starlight
while she gathers
and albatross feathers?
And will she find treasure
or will she find pain
at the end of this rainbow
of moonlight on rain?
If I remember correctly, I wrote the first version of this poem toward the end
of my senior year in high school, around age 18, then forgot about it
until I met my future wife Beth and she reminded me of the
poem’s protagonist. I dedicated the poem to Beth on September 21,
1991, the same day I wrote "Seasons, for Beth." Since then "Will There Be
Starlight" has been published by The Chained Muse, Famous Poets and Poems,
Grassroots Poetry, Inspirational Stories, Jenion, Poetry Webring, Starlight
Archives, TALESetc, The Word (UK) and Writ in Water. The poem has
also been set to music by the award-winning Australian composer David Hamilton
and there is a spoken-word version performed by David B. Gosselin in a podcast
during which he recited and discussed nine of my poems for his literary journal,
Form, Theme, Analysis and Meaning: "Will There Be
Starlight" is a lyric poem about the search for beauty and happiness in an
often-dark world that can be very difficult to navigate at times. The poem's main themes
are the faint illumination we sometimes have during periods of our search and
our uncertainty about what we will discover in the end. The first line came to me as
a question: "Will there be starlight?" The rest of the poem is my attempt to
answer that question: When? Tonight. What is being sought by starlight?
Things that are lovely and/or mysterious. Things that can delight us and make
us happy. What will be the end result of the search? Treasure, pain or
nebulous rainbow. A rainbow formed by moonlight on rain would be diaphanous
and might represent no firm conclusion. Perhaps at the end of our search we will
know no more than when we started. I think of the poem as a poetic fairytale.
And I would describe the poetic form employed as being like "stepping stones"
— the poem's format encourages the reader to examine each
item/symbol individually, rather than reading them in a rush. The poem's nonce
form is discussed in more detail under "Literary Devices."
Tone: The poem's tone might be described as hopeful but
wistful, leaning toward melancholy.
Diction: The poem's language is soft, gentle and a bit dreamy.
Literary Devices: The poem’s primary literary devices are its
nonce form, meter, rhyme, alliteration, repetition, imagery and
The poem employs an unusual form — a nonce form I created specifically for this
poem because I didn’t want it to be read too fast. Placing the images on
separate lines slows down the reading a bit and emphasizes the images and
rhymes. If I had written …
Will there be starlight tonight while she gathers
damask and lilac and sweet-scented heathers?
… the tendency would be to read the lines more swiftly, with less emphasis on
words like “tonight” and “damask” and “lilac.” Also, putting “tonight” on a
separate line emphasizes the rhyme with “starlight.” I think the form suits the
poem, so I’m glad it occurred to me. I used a "similar but different" form in my
The poem is metrical. The meter is driven by a pattern of weaker and stronger
stresses, for instance in words like “starLIGHT” and “toNIGHT” and “daMASK” and
“liLAC.” I think the form employed adds a bit of extra emphasis to the
Will there be starLIGHT
while she gaTHERS
and liLAC ...
The poem employs both perfect rhymes and slant rhymes: -light, -night, gathers,
heathers, thorns, unborn, etc.
The poem uses repetition of the three opening lines, and also of the questions:
“And will she find …” and “Or will she find …”
The poem employs alliteration, primarily of soft “s” sounds with words like:
starlight, she, gathers, damask, sweet-scented heathers, etc.
The poem employs imagery, with images like: starlight, damask, lilac, etc. And
the poem concludes with the image of a rainbow created by moonlight shining on
The poem employs symbols and metaphors in a somewhat hazy way, which hopefully
works well with the theme. Each of images is meant to be suggestive of something
lovely, esoteric and/or mysterious. The items being gathered are collectively
metaphors for something that is never directly stated: happiness. Beautiful
things should make us happy, but we don’t always end up happy despite all the
treasures we accumulate. The poem may be considered an extended metaphor about
trying to find happiness in a world full of beauty, where happiness remains
elusive at worst and transient at best.
Some of the symbols have individual significance. For instance, a rainbow
symbolizes hope and good fortune (i.e., the pot of gold at the end), but
rainbows can quickly disappear so they can also symbolize transience. Damask can
have a shimmering, rainbow-like effect under changing light and was a highly
coveted fabric for centuries. Seashells and mussel shells retain their beauty
after death and can shimmer like rainbows. The rose symbolizes love and the
damask rose symbolizes secrecy and unity. The lilac is a symbol of fresh starts,
renewal, love, and romance. The albatross symbolizes innocence, but in the "Rime
of the Ancient Mariner" a mistreated albatross became a very dark omen. Damask
is, similarly, a reversible fabric, with one side being the inverse of the
other. However, it is not necessary for the reader to "get" all the individual
symbols. It is enough to recognize the search for beauty and happiness, the
hopefulness this quest creates, and the possibility of ultimate failure.
One of the interesting things about a poem is that it can communicate multiple
things on multiple levels. The reader may never be aware of all the things that
are going on, but they can add up nonetheless. This poem attempts — readers will
have to decide if it works — to communicate the uncertain-ness and sadness of
being surrounded by so much beauty, as we go about collecting the things we
desire, only to have it all potentially amount to no more than a "rainbow of
moonlight on rain."
And so, for a fairly short poem there is quite a bit going on. I hope you liked
the poem and thanks for taking the time to get this far, if you got here!
Michael R. Burch is an American poet who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his
wife Beth, their son Jeremy, and three outrageously spoiled puppies. His poems, epigrams, translations, essays, articles,
reviews, short stories and letters have appeared
more than 6,000 times in publications which include TIME, USA Today, The Hindu,
BBC Radio 3, CNN.com, Daily Kos, The Washington Post, Light Quarterly, The Lyric, Measure, Writer's Digest—The Year's Best Writing,
The Best of the Eclectic Muse, Unlikely Stories and
hundreds of other literary journals, websites and blogs. Mike Burch is also the
founder and editor-in-chief of The HyperTexts, a former columnist for the Nashville City Paper and, according to Google's
rankings, a relevant online publisher of poems about the Holocaust,
Hiroshima, the Trail of Tears, Darfur, Haiti, Gaza
and the Palestinian Nakba. He has two published books,
Violets for Beth (White
Violet Press, 2012) and
O, Terrible Angel (Ancient Cypress Press, 2013).
A third book, Auschwitz Rose, is still in the chute but long delayed.
Burch's poetry has been translated into fourteen languages and set to music by
nine composers. His poem "First They
Came for the Muslims" has been adopted by Amnesty International for its
Words That Burn anthology, a free online resource for
students and educators. Burch has also served as editor of International
Poetry and Translations for the literary journal Better
For an expanded bio, circum vitae and career timeline of the poet, please click here: Michael R. Burch Expanded Bio.
"Davenport Tomorrow" Analysis,
"Passionate One" Analysis,
"Self Reflection" Analysis,
"Will There Be Starlight" Analysis,