Sunday, June 16, 2013

On The Beach at Night - Happy Father's Day

St. Augustine's Sunset

On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.

Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.

From the beach the child holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.

Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in apparition,
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure,
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall again shine.

The Pleiades, 1885, Elihu Vedder, Oil on Canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art,  New York, NY
Then dearest child mournest thou only for Jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?

Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter
Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.

~ Walt Whitman (from Leaves of Grass, first published in the 1871-72 edition)

A Girl Named Fred with the best Father in the Whole World!
I chose this poem because it exemplifies the nature of my relationship with my father to this day. My father spends time with me, encourages me, and calms my fears. Much like the father in this poem he explained life to me with care even when my questions or concerns may have been trite to others. 

Rather than laughing or dismissing the child's concern for Jupiter disappearing 'forever' in the clouds, Whitman portrays a loving, patient and kind father explaining the stars to his child and at the same time strongly suggesting that there are things more immortal even than the stars.... a father's love.

~ I love you daddy, Fred

For the readers who do not know what Pleiades is, it is also called the 'Seven Sisters' or Messier Object 45 (M45) (I prefer Pleiades) and it is an open star cluster in the constellation of Taurus and is visible to the human eye during the night. In Greek Mythology Pleiades are the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione and half sister of Hyades - Electra (mother of Dardanus, the founder of Troy), Maia, Taygete, Alcyone, Merope, Celaeno, and Sterope. They were always in pursued of Orion but to no avail because Zeus, the father of the gods, took pity on the ever fleeing sisters and placed them in the heavens as stars out of his reach.

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