Sunday, 30 August 2009

MORE LIGHT (as Goethe ultimately said)

The light on the Estuary gives a daily dramatic performance. It has a full repertoire. Recently there has been much of the phenomenon where light falls in great vertical shafts from a dark sky. This drama, common on the Estuary, called for comment in the ages before television dimmed our sensibilities.. Ancient dualistic religions saw in these spears of sunshine the weapons of the Powers of Light thrusting into the Powers of Darkness. Just so Egyptian gods speared the crocodile with a piercing downstroke and so too the Christian George lanced the dragon beneath his horse’s hoofs. My friend, the sculptor used to call this phenomenon Jehovah descending from Heaven which must have been a reference to some painting now unknown to me.

When the wind whips up the waters and the light catches the waves large and small the waters delight the eye and their beauty cheers the inner man. When, however, there is only a breath of wind the waters work an even greater magic. There is always a rich spiritual quality to a calm rising tide filling slowly and to be in a small boat on such a tide floating gently out whether in sun or cloud is to be in a heaven on earth

Nightime only enhances the beauty of light on calm water and to sail across the Estuary under the stars of a clear night and when the water is a sheet of glass is to be in the closest possible harmony with the spirit on the waters, to be confronted with the wonder of time and space and existence. The water below is as deep as the sky above is high and the lonely boatman in his boat is as a nothing suspended beween these two infinities. Only lone aeronauts and perhaps astronauts can feel closer to the infinite.

Moon and stars, flashing buoys and the many lights of the waterside are reflected and refracted by the waters and their glory is doubled. Goethe wrote a song for the spirits, plural, over the waters, Gesang der Geister ├╝ber den Wassern, which was set thrice set by Schubert and once by Carl Loewe. I like the line : in dem glatten See weiden ihr Anlitz alle Gestirne. That’s true enough. Here on the Estuary the stars do indeed look down. They swell. They throw down their spears. They become quite Van Goghish. They positively stare. They go so far as to eyeball themselves, and it is certain that they always find their own reflected faces quite delightful and then they go so far as to preen themselves. I have caught them at it.

(Tomorrow: A boat-shaped poem entitled : My Boat is caught in Sunshine. )

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