What is the subject of this poem? What does its speaker find so troubling?
How would you define “the dark angel,” and why is it perceived as an “angel” rather than a demon?
Are the stanza form, meter and rhyme scheme appropriate for its subject?
What are some unusual word choices, and how do they reinforce the poem’s meaning?
What are implications of words such as “paraclete,” “vehemence” and “beleaguered”?
In what sequence does the speaker present the sensations and sights which trouble him? Is anything left out? What are implications of “apples of ashes” and “waters of bitterness”?
With whose aid will the speaker fight the “dark angel”? What will be the cost of this conflict? What results does he seek?
Under what conditions will the dark angel have “saved [his] soul from death”? To what theological doctrine/Biblical passage does he refer?
What are implications of the final claim, that he hopes to go “Lonely, unto the Lone” and “Divine, to the Divinity”? Is there a sadness to this claim? Might there have been other views of the nature of divinity?
Do we know the outcome to the speaker’s struggle? Do you find its closure satisfying? Effective?
Critics seem to agree that this poem describes Johnson’s conflicts as a converted Catholic with homoerotic impulses. Might the struggle it describes also be relevant in other situations?
Would you describe this poem as confident? Ambivalent?