Archive for June, 2014

Midnight Blossoms, William Kilburn (1745 – 1818)

… Phlox, lilac misted
under a quarter moon,
with sweet smells
of night-scented stock.
The garden is very still
It is dazed with moonlight,
contented with perfume …

Amy Lowell


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Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh, (1889) oil on canvas
Image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York

who can count the stars
gleaming on night’s dark curtain
in the infinite shining heavens

        “This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the North Star, which looked very big.” Van Gogh penned these lines to his brother, from Saint Remy in France. After gazing at the vision, van Gogh later produced this painting. Rooted in his imagination and memory, Starry Night—with its thick sweeping brushstrokes and swirling energy—embodies the inner and subjective expression of the artist’s response to nature.

During my early years in Minnesota, I was also fascinated by the night sky. Its stately procession of constellations circled through the year beneath the North Star – that fixed point located at the top of the heavens. The winter skyscape was enriched by the presence of the Big and Little Dippers, the mighty hunter Orion, his faithful dog, Sirius, at his feet, Taurus the bull, and the exquisite open star cluster of the Pleiades. Imagine my surprise when after moving to Australia, it was the summer sky that held these heavenly wonders, and all the familiar constellations now appeared upside down.

Stars and Galaxies, image courtesy of NASA

Writers and musicians also draw inspiration from the vastness and beauty of the night sky. The 19th century Irish composer, John Field, first wrote a peaceful and lyrical set of piano solos that he entitled, Nocturnes. In the following generation, these night songs reached their culmination in the hands of Chopin. All of this evocative music is enjoyed as pianists continue to play these Nocturnes along with the many others that are still being written. Relax and dream of the night as Irish pianist, John O’Conor, performs John Field’s, Nocturne Number 1 in E Flat.

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