Study Guide

The Lightning is a yellow Fork Quotes

  • Awe and Amazement

    The Lightning is a yellow Fork   
    From Tables in the sky (1-2)

    This image seems simple and even a bit on the silly side, but it actually expresses a <em>lot</em> – primarily, a kind of scope and vastness that's difficult to process.

    By inadvertent fingers dropt (3)

    This is a mystifying and brief moment in which we have to wonder whose enormous fingers are capable of using lightning as a fork. Also, what are the implications of their "inadvertent," seemingly clumsy nature?

    The awful Cutlery
    Of mansions never quite disclosed
    And never quite concealed (4-6)

    The lightning is a pretty scary thing – and if it's merely the awe-inspiring "Cutlery" of these mysterious "mansions" in the sky, then what else is up there? We'll never know ... the unknowable nature of the heavens makes them all the more fascinating – and a little scary.

    The Apparatus of the Dark (7)

    This evocative phrase expresses the total incomprehensibility of whatever higher power is lurking out there. The speaker's description of it as "the Dark" demonstrates its utter obscurity.

  • Spirituality

    By inadvertent fingers dropt (3)

    OK, this might seem incredibly simple, but generally speaking, fingers usually belong to somebody. This is our first clue that the speaker thinks there's someone or something out there that makes things happen in the universe.

    Of mansions never quite disclosed
    And never quite concealed (5-6)

    This image elegantly summons up the nature of faith in the unseen – it's never fully visible but always somehow apparent.

    The Apparatus of the Dark
    To ignorance revealed. (7-8)

    These last lines suggest that <em>some</em> aspects of God are revealed to us. Since we can see God's works (like the wonder of the lightning bolt), the speaker thinks this "Apparatus" – the natural world – is proof that God, or something <em>like</em> God, is out there.

  • Man and the Natural World

    The Lightning is a yellow Fork (1)

    This poem begins with a playful engagement with the natural world, which highlights both the amazing, alien qualities of nature and our closeness to it.

    The Apparatus of the Dark (7)

    The "Apparatus" in question here seems to be nature itself. After all, the lightning's flash is what makes this whole string of associated images possible.

  • Wisdom and Knowledge

    Of mansions never quite disclosed
    And never quite concealed (5-6)

    Our human eyes can't quite make out whatever's out there in the cosmos, but we can sometimes see hints of it. This idea of partial or incomplete knowledge is essential to the poem.

    The Apparatus of the Dark
    To ignorance revealed. (7-8)

    It seems we will always remain at least partially "ignorant," since all that's revealed to us is the "Apparatus," or the framework, of whatever higher power is out there. We can see it reflected in things like natural phenomena, but when it comes to actually seeing or knowing what's going on beyond our world, our understanding is strictly limited.