Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Night....into Day? A Reflection on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem

Poem: "Night" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Public Domain.


Into the darkness and the hush of night
Slowly the landscape sinks, and fades away,
And with it fade the phantoms of the day,
The ghosts of men and things, that haunt the
The crowd, the clamor, the pursuit, the flight,
The unprofitable splendor and display,
The agitations, and the cares that prey
Upon our hearts, all vanish out of sight.
The better life begins; the world no more
Molests us; all its records we erase
From the dull common-place book of our lives,
That like a palimpsest is written o'er
With trivial incidents of time and place,
And lo! the ideal, hidden beneath, revives.

Thank you Henry Wordsworth Longfellow, Garrison Keillor and the Writer's Almanac, for bringing this forward. I'm struck by sinking landscapes and fading phantoms, vanishing clamorous pursuits, splendor. Yes! I'm excited by this notion of the better life beginning, a cessation of things that molest our spirits our hearts. (How about that for a word, "molest"? Yikes!)
And this image of a palimpsest! That a sheath, a record could possess the mutual stories (truths?) of the past, with inscribed new tales, details over the top. Oh, the discovery of the original underneath is like this dawning of a new day. Sunrise! Light! Fresh eyes! Revived Spirits! Longfellow gives this poem the title of 'Night" - but the Hope rests in the imminent rising of what seems to have been hidden. Yes! The sun will appear. It just does. As will any written-over-record of truth. Behind clouds now, this light, this ideal radiance is: ready to emerge.

Are you ready?

Peace, Happy Contemplating!


Anonymous said...

What’s a palimpsest? I am ignorant of this word. I know I could look it up but I’ll let you tell me.

Jill said...

Palimpsest - is piece of parchment or vellum which is often written on over and over, thus revealing past ideas or writings.

***I only know this because we were just at the Getty Museum and viewed some of the French illuminated (beautifully painted and illustrated with birds, flowers, ornate letters, etc. )manuscripts which display palimpsests as historical evidence of past writings.