Night is a mysterious woman in an indigo mantle. She brings silence and solitude and a respite to the stresses of the day. Her single catlike eye, the moon, and the winking stars provide pale light, but secret matters are hidden in her vast darkness. Her "child Sleep" (Percy Bysshe Shelley, 24) often accompanies her, bringing with him his three pets, Dream, Fear, and Nightmare. Her "brother Death" (Shelley, 22) sometimes comes too, bringing the final night, the quietus. Meanwhile others atone for Death’s deeds, joining together in that divine union which brings forth new beings to life. Night and her companions transform the daylight world into something very different.
I revel in the night. My energy is greatest then and I stay up quite late. It is a personal time in which I do my best thinking or do the things I love to do. Sleep is necessary but I try to avoid him as much as possible. Sometimes I go running at night, with only the sound of sneakers on pavement breaking the quiet. Whenever I go out for runs, I always find something special, a panoramic view of the city, the autumn colors, a unique flower. One particular night I took off with my dog. We ran for half an hour and then headed home down a long, steep hill. Not once during that run had I truly looked at the sky, but when I did, it took my breath away. There hung a full moon and it glowed a pale gold in the "blue-black vault" (William Wordsworth, 14). The light gleamed eerily on the passing clouds and shimmered on the lake below. I felt as awe-struck as the "pensive traveler" in "A Night Piece". Night’s beauty is so much rarer than that of the sun and the day that when you see it, the image is forever imprinted in your memory.
I think of poetry as a kind of music. Just as the music of the earliest composers such as Mozart or Beethoven or Bach lives on today, so do the colorful images described by William Blake, or the complexity in Emily Dickinson's brief poems, or the similes of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and the emotions and expressions of all the classic poets. They are long dead but their work is so stellar that it is still quite popular in this modern world. There are many talented poets that have come later, but I felt particularly drawn to the classics. The experience they gave me took me far beyond the chair where I sat; I felt transported.
I would like to share one of these experiences with the reader.
These poems describe night in all of its manifestations. The major themes
found in "Summer Night", "Wild Nights! Wild Nights!" and "Meeting at Night"
concern the power of desire and the exquisiteness of love and pleasure
in the secret of night. "The Day is Done" and Blake’s "Night" depict the
peace that comes at this time. On the other hand, Herman Hesse (whose poetry
is unavailable on the web, see below) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge do not
find comfort in the dark when terror and nightmares disrupt their slumber.
Hood feels rather morose about the eternity of darkness in death while
William Cullen Bryant approaches it with a more upbeat tone. His meditation
on death comes to the conclusion that death is a permanent sleep filled
with grand company and pleasant dreams. These poems have been arranged
in order to display a diverse representation of night through differences
in theme, style, and tone. I open and close the collection with two poems
that pay tribute to this "terrible and dear" (Shelley, 6) thing. Let these
night songs of words alone be heard.
|"To Night"||Percy Bysshe Shelley|
|"Meeting at Night"||Robert Browning|
|"Thanatopsis"||William Cullen Bryant|
|"Uneasiness in the Night"1||Herman Hesse|
|"Wild Nights! Wild Nights!"||Emily Dickinson|
|"A long, long sleep…"||Emily Dickinson|
|"The Day is Done"||Henry Wadsworth Longfellow|
|"Pains of Sleep"||Samuel Taylor Coleridge|
|"Summer Night"||Alfred Lord Tennyson|
|"Rhapsody on a Windy Night"||T. S. Eliot|
|"A Night Piece"||William Wordsworth|
1Herman Hesse, "Uneasiness in the Night," tr. James Wright, is not available on the Web
2Herman Hesse, "Night," tr. James Wright, is not available on the Web