Critical Summary of Lights Out
The poem is about sleep or perhaps about death. The poet says that sleep is like an unfathomable deep forest where all must lose their way because "they cannot chose". Sleep cannot be postponed whether it is day or night. Nobody can deceive it. He declares sleep such a jungle where "love", "despair", "ambition", "all pleasure" and "all trouble" end. This is such a moment in which man, unwillingly, diverts from the dearest book or most beloved face. The fact is that sleep is strange valley about which we know nothing. The poet says
"its silence I hear and obey,
That I may lose my way and myself".
Man cannot avoid either sleep or death. They are inevitable. They are a reality dark and unknown; it is human nature to embrace them.
The poet certainly wishes to leave us alone in the midst of darkness to decide by ourselves what should be the meaning of "Lights Out"; it can be ascribed to death, it may even mean mere sleep. But sleep itself is similar to death and death is also declared a long sleep. Therefore, the poet has actually referred to both without involving the gloom of death.
There is yet another aspect of sleep i.e. it gives us peace and pleasure to roam about within the darker jungles of our own deeper and unconscious self. This produces dreams for some while nightmares for others. The "tall forest towers" may continue abiding for ever in the deepest of forests and sleep and its mysteries may never be fully uncoiled. We may only observe one aspect at a time and that too mere a glimpse.
Lights Out analysis with other literary works
Both Sleep and death are the words often used interchangeably; however, they are not synonyms in the real sense of the words. The similarity that exists between death and sleep can be defined in a single word called "strangeness". Death is unknown while sleep is also unknown; we know nothing of them except a shadow and an illusion. Several of the poets have undertaken to venture into the subject and express their beliefs towards it. Where "Lights Out" looks into the experience of sleep that appears to the poet like a jungle at night, Emily Dickenson's "Because I Could Not Stop For Death"and Robert Frost's After Apple Picking discuss the aspects of death and similarity of sleep as a peaceful process of moving towards either death or sleep.