Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No Night Could be Darker Than This Night

For the first time in 372 years, a lunar eclipse coincided with the Winter Solstice. I watched it out of my window looking at St. Nicholas Park in Harlem, the Gothic Shepard Hall of the City College of New York in the background.

Below is the view I had from my reading chair. This was the eclipse in its final stages. For all of my talk about the value in slow things, I felt I was watching the whole of winter on fast forward.

I thought of this poem, "Twelfth Night" by Laurie Lee. Although its title alludes to the Epiphany, this poem feels like one for the Winter Solstice, especially a solstice when the hemisphere could see the light of a full moon blotted by shadow in a matter of minutes.

"No night could be darker than this night,
                           No cold so cold,
                           As the blood snaps like a wire,
                           And the heart’s sap stills,
                           And the year seems defeated.

                           O never again, it seems, can green things run,
                           Or sky birds fly,
                           Or the grass exhale its humming breath
                           Powdered with pimpernels,
                           From this dark lung of winter.

                           Yet here are lessons for the final mile
Of pilgim kings;
The mile still left when all have reached
Their tether’s end: that mile
Where the Child lies hid
For see, beneath the hand, the earth already
                           Warms and glows;
                           For men with shepherd’s eyes there are
                           Signs in the dark, the turning stars,
                           The lamb’s returning time.

                           Out of this utter death he’s born again,
                           His birth our saviour;
                           From terror’s equinox he climbs and grows,
                           Drawing his finger’s light across our blood –
                           The sun of heaven, and the son of god."  --"Twelfth Night", by Laurie Lee

I learned this poem when I sang it with a college choir in an arrangement by Samuel Barber. Here's great performance of it. (Oh, I miss my days as a choirboy.)
Any thoughts on the eclipse and on the longest night of the year? Comment!

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite a capella pieces even though I've never sung it (in performance). I sang with a four year college choir but heard it through an Iowa All-State Choir performance years ago. After last night's longest night, it's great to hear, anticipating Christmas...