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Featured Poem: Beyond The Sunset by Charles Heavysege

Written by Lisa Spurgin, 17th May 2010

The longer days and lighter nights are very much with us and they bring with them all manner of things, mostly good. The good things include inhaling the fresh and rather intoxicating scent of newly-cut grass, hearing all kinds of tuneful and unusual birdsong through an open window (over the last week or so, I’ve had some very amusing sounds entering my ear via the birds tweeting about in my back garden), digging out those lighter and brighter summer clothes and if you’re entirely lucky, getting a chance to sit on a bench or under a tree as the sun glints through the leaves and a warm breeze drifts by while you riffle through the pages of your latest read – something quite simplistic, aside from the fact that you can’t often rely on the totally unpredictable weather so you may be waiting a while to catch the chance to do so, but in my opinion quite a perfect way to spend an afternoon. The not-so-good things…for me they include the apparent permanent smoke-tinged smell on the air as the entire world sees fit to get out their barbecuing equipment, the numerous sores and blisters that emerge as summer shoes and sandals rub against my unprepared, taken-by-surprise feet (they’ve grown accustomed to being protected by boots that are heavy, snuggly or otherwise stretch over my calves) and being greeted by spiders and other creepy crawlies that peek from nooks and crannies in the house on an almost daily basis, tempted out by the ever-so-slightly increasing heat.

However, without doubt my favourite thing about the progressively stretched hours is the beautiful and really quite breathtaking sunsets it brings. Of course this depends on whether the day has been relatively clear – it’s not much good if the sun hasn’t even emerged during the earlier hours between grey and gloomy clouds – but over the last few nights in particular I’ve witnessed a number of consecutive stunning sunsets (hmm, maybe that could give rise to a new blended word – a ‘stunset’? I shall check whether or not it’s been copyrighted already – if indeed you can copyright a word, which I very much doubt. But do feel free to use it when you see a particularly remarkable sunset in the coming weeks or months). It always amazes me to see the sky painted as if in watercolour, with differing shades smudged over the horizon; no two sunsets every appear the same to my eyes, but all are something to behold. From calm, glowing yellows to serene pinks and purples to beaming brilliant oranges and reds that look deceptively as if a match has been sparked and the sky has been set fire to, this simple act of nature could rival anything by Turner or Constable. And so, inspired by the skies, I’ve chosen a poem that celebrates the occurrence of a sunset; a love-note, if you will, considering it’s written in sonnet form. It very aptly, for me, sums up both the sheer awe and the peacefulness that is inspired on simply watching the sun setting above. I particularly like the line ‘Like scattered flames, the growing cloudlets red’ as it tallies with my own frequent idea of an especially picturesque sunset and also as I’ve never before heard the word ‘cloudlet’ and am now going to add it to my list of ‘Words that should be used more often’. And the closing three lines produce a rather soothing image of the clouds as ‘fabled islands’, which just adds to the overall loveliness.

Beyond The Sunset

Hushed in a calm before mine utterance,
See in the western sky the evening spread;
Suspended in its pale, serene expanse,
Like scattered flames, the growing cloudlets red
Clear are those clouds, and that pure sky’s profound,
Transparent as a lake of hyaline;
Nor motion, nor the faintest breath of sound,
Disturbs the steadfast beauty of the scene.
Far o’er the vault the winnowed welkin wide,
From the bronzed east unto the whitened west,
Moored, seem, in their sweet, tranquil, roseate pride,
Those clouds the fabled islands of the blest; -
The lands where pious spirits breathe in joy,
And love and worship all their hours employ.

Charles Heavysege (1816-1876)

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