Edmund Dulac, “Night, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”
Act III, scene II of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet begins with a breathtaking monologue of Juliet in which she beckons the night to come faster so that she can start her “amorous rites” with Romeo. There are quotes from literature that haunt us and I particularly like this monologue and the line that I made into the title of this post. Romeo and Juliet is an alchemical play that contains a rich interplay of pairs of opposites, the central being the pair of lovers themselves. Juliet meets Romeo (his name means “pilgrim”) at the age of 14, he sees her at night. She is the Moon, the feminine principle, and the Moon at the fourteenth day of her cycle is full, while he is the pilgrim, i.e. the Sun that wanders across the sky, the masculine principle. In the longest night of the year we all await the rebirth of the Sun and Light. But we can also choose to celebrate and rejoice with the Queen of the Night, the Greek goddess Nyx, by turning inwards and reflecting, dreaming and resting. The Norsemen used to call the Winter solstice night “Modranect,” which meant the Night of the Mother. On that night she gave birth to the solar Frey, one of the most crucial gods in their mythology. In ancient Egypt, Nut was the night goddess famously depicted as a woman arched over the earth. This depiction actually may have its roots in winter solstice, as a scholar Ronald Wells speculated:
“… in the predawn sky at winter solstice in predynastic Egypt the Milky Way would have looked remarkably like a stretched out figure with arms and legs touching the horizons in exactly the manner in which the goddess was often later depicted. Furthermore, at the time of the winter solstice the sun would have risen in the area of the goddess’s figure – her pudendum – from which it would be imagined to be born, just as nine months earlier, at the spring equinox, the sun would have set in the position of the goddess’s head – suggesting it was being swallowed.”
Richard H. Wilkinson, The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt
I hope you enjoy my collection of quotes meant as a tribute to Night.
“You, darkness, of whom I am born —
I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.
But the darkness embraces everything:
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations — just as they are.
It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me.
I believe in the night.”
Reiner Maria Rilke, from “Book of Hours,” translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
Gustave Moreau, The Fiancée of the Night
“I turn away from the light to the holy, inexpressible, mysterious night. Far away lies the world sunk into a deep vault, its place waste and lonely. Across my heart strings a low melancholy plays. I will fall in drops of dew and merge with the ashes. Distant memories, the wishes of youth, the dreams of childhood, the brief joys and vain hopes of a long life – all arise dressed in grey, like evening mist after sunset. In other lands light has pitched its merry tents.
Are you pleased with us, dark night? What is it you conceal under your mantle, that grabs invisibly and powerfully at my soul? You raise up the heavy wings of the soul – darkly and inexpressibly we are moved.”
Novalis, “Hymns to the Night,” translated by Simon Elmer
Gustave Moreau, “Night”
III. “Nyx, the forgotten primordial Greek goddess of night, is calling for resurrection. And there are unexpected gifts to be found in the darkness she brings, if we choose to be more nightminded. Night has been celebrated and sanctified with rich social and sacred rituals across cultures and time. Whether it is the initial transition through the dusk, the experience of sleeping and dreaming, or the coming of dawn and awakening, each phase of night offers sacred and healing possibilities.
We suffer today from serious complications of psychospiritual night blindedness – a far-reaching failure to understand the significance of night in our lives, health, and spirituality. Over the past century, “civilized” nights have grown significantly shorter. A culture of zealous industrialization has polluted the night environment with excessive and pernicious artificial illumination. Blinded by this light, we have lost our regard for the natural milieu of dusk, dawn, and the intervening darkness of night.”
Rubin R. Nayman, Healing Night: The Science and Spirit of Sleeping, Dreaming and Awakening
From Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” The Arrival of the Queen of the Night, stage set by Karl Friedrich Schinkel