Last night I could not sleep (too much sitting during the day made my back painful). There is only so much prayer and reading one can manage when wriggling around trying to make oneself ‘comfortable’; the charms of the World Service quickly pall when every half-hour brings a reminder of the turmoil in Europe. Only the moon made the night bearable.

How beautiful it was last night! Older Catholics will remember that the moon was often referred to as ‘Our Lady’s Lamp’ (no green cheese or men in the moon for us). I suppose it was the inevitable consequence of the idea of Mary as Star of the Sea (one of the happiest typos in history). Anyway, I spent a pleasant hour or two recalling all the poetry about moonlight I’ve ever known and could only marvel that God should create something of such loveliness to lighten the darkness of night. In case you suffer from a sleepless night, here is Walter de la Mare enchanted by the moon’s silvery beauty:

Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
Couched in his kennel, like a log,
With paws of silver sleeps the dog;
From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in silver feathered sleep
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws, and silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam,
By silver reeds in a silver stream.


9 thoughts on “Moonlight”

  1. Thank you for that poem, bringing back what I had learnt at school. Woke this morning to another of his:
    “A pure white mantle blotted out
    The world I used to know.”

  2. I especially like these lines from the Eve of St Agnes

    Then by the bed-side, where the faded moon
    Made a dim, silver twilight, soft he set
    A table, and, half anguish’d, threw thereon
    A doth of woven crimson, gold, and jet:—
    O for some drowsy Morphean amulet!
    The boisterous, midnight, festive clarion,
    The kettle-drum, and far-heard clarinet,
    Affray his ears, though but in dying tone:—
    The hall door shuts again, and all the noise is gone.

    And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep,
    In blanched linen, smooth, and lavender’d,
    While he from forth the closet brought a heap
    Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd
    With jellies soother than the creamy curd,
    And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon;
    Manna and dates, in argosy transferr’d
    From Fez; and spiced dainties, every one,
    From silken Samarcand to cedar’d Lebanon.

    These delicates he heap’d with glowing hand
    On golden dishes and in baskets bright
    Of wreathed silver: sumptuous they stand
    In the retired quiet of the night,
    Filling the chilly room with perfume light.—
    “And now, my love, my seraph fair, awake!
    Thou art my heaven, and I thine eremite:
    Open thine eyes, for meek St Agnes’ sake,
    Or I shall drowse beside thee, so my soul doth ache.”

    Thus whispering, his warm, unnerved arm
    Sank in her pillow. Shaded was her dream
    By the dusk curtains:—’twas a midnight charm
    Impossible to melt as iced stream:
    The lustrous salvers in the moonlight gleam;
    Broad golden fringe upon the carpet lies:
    It seem’d he never, never could redeem
    From such a stedfast spell his lady’s eyes;
    So mus’d awhile, entoil’d in woofed phantasies.

  3. It was a beautiful moon last night, and I enjoyed the poem by De La Mare. However if the weather is too cold or unpleasant for a walk, try Through the Night on Radio 3: you can escape the European turmoil there.

  4. Hope your back has sorted itself now.
    Thanks for the lovely moonlight poem
    This is another contribution
    By Elinor Roberts Hartt

    The empty silence
    this long night
    can offer no protection
    against that proud
    highriding mystery
    the moon’s perfection.

  5. How very nice to have our very own Poets’ Corner on iBenedictines! Thank you, all.

    Jerome originally wrote of Mary as ‘maris stilla’, a droplet in the sea of humanity; a ninth century scribe read his text as ‘maris stella’ and so the beautiful image of Mary as guidestar of the sea came into being.

  6. Many thanks for the lovely poetry.

    If you have another noctural sojourn, I hope you have a chance to look at Jupiter, which is also prominent in the eastern sky just after sunset. It too is a lovely and inspiring sight; and so bright that even those of us whose view of the night sky is washed out by city lights, can see it and wonder.

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