Posted by: David | January 8, 2012

The Night Sky

A pithy quote from the book I’m reading, which has heretofore been a light comedy, but full of nice old words like heretofore.  It’s from the previously mentioned volume, Three Men In A Boat, first published in 1889, and now in the public domain.

It was a glorious night.  The moon had sunk, and left the quiet earth alone with the stars.  It seemed as if, in the silence and the hush, while we her children slept, they were talking with her, their sister—conversing of mighty mysteries in voices too vast and deep for childish human ears to catch the sound. They awe us, these strange stars, so cold, so clear. 

We are as children whose small feet have strayed into some dim-lit temple of the god they have been taught to worship but know not; and, standing where the echoing dome spans the long vista of the shadowy light, glance up, half hoping, half afraid to see some awful vision hovering there.

Jerome, Jerome K. (Jerome Klapka) (2011-03-30). Three Men in a Boat (p. 96). Kindle Edition.



  1. This reminds me of a book by Chet Raymo called “Soul of the Night”. I love reading a person’s vision of the night sky and how looking at the vastness of it makes them feel.

    The weird thing Joan is the way this profound pair of paragraphs is buried halfway through a lighthearted romp. It makes me optimistic for the second half of the book, which I’d originally heard of on an NPR piece back in December. Julia Stuart’s 4 minute piece is worth a listen.

  2. A lovely passage. We’ve all experienced moments like this, awed by the night sky. Even the most hardened cynics know the feeling, whether they admit it or not.

    It reminded me of an important moment in my late adolescence. My girlfriend (who a year or so later provided me that first, crushing, yet ever-so-important heartbreak) and I were lying on the grass staring up at the stars on a particularly clear and moonless night. I told her how if you stared into that sky long enough, you could get the feeling of the whole Earth suspended in that infinite expanse, which feeling you could definitively register by a mild vertigo. In other words, the sky you’d been looking “up” at would seem more like you were looking “out” at it. It felt amazing to me, but I wasn’t so sure that she was feeling it. That was how that relationship went. I’d dreamed of her occasionally for many years after that, but it’s ancient history now. However, I still feel that “afloat in the universe” feeling when I stare up into the night sky.

  3. I love the ‘afloat’ feeling, I know exactly what you are talking about.

    Can’t say I’m surprised to hear that Maleesha. But then, you’re from the “big sky country” ain’t you?

  4. 😦 I would not be able to read that kind of language.

    I think things go wrong when the line between poetry and prose is blurred. In fact, just the other day I took a quote from an internet talk “”The evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on
    the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that
    blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the
    final shore in.”
    It is just a bit more rational and that saves it, especially as it ends up defining the basic metaphor of putting things to rest.

    Oh I disagree, and I think you disproved your initial statement with your poetic interpretation. This book is entirely prose and the language is rather clear. I agree with you on things going wrong when the verse/prose boundary blurs. I think musical theater is a great example of that wrongness. 😦

    • No, I didn’t disprove, but left out “However”. The difference is difficult to define. In that example it was the metaphor. (There is some punctuation missing after “shedding”, no? )
      That metaphor came off in perfect timing
      In your example there are all those wordies — mysteries, vast, deep, human, silence, hush, dim , god. worship, awful, vision– quite a selection! It is put on too thick.

      I don’t know about musical theater. And as to opera, I thought that maybe it was a way to make the rich pay for great music. They went to see a play and thereby financed a composer and a large orchestra. Anyway, I don’t understand its raison d’être.

      Well I like it anyway. Harummph!

      Musical theatre has no raison d’être. The same goes for opera. It is put on too thickly. Blah!

  5. I used to tell my children that I turned on the stars at night, with a secret switch. (Really you can’t prove I don’t.)

    And I might need a Kindle after all, seems like.

    That’s very funny! We once told our daughter that Santa Claus was actually Cab Calloway. AS you say, there’s no way to disprove it.

    And yes, a Kindle might be nice for you. I think I can recommend it. Although there’s never harm in waiting for technology. It only gets better and cheaper.

  6. I’m sorry, but I think your book sounds a bit creepy! I’m with Cantueso. The language would bog me down. It just doesn’t flow like modern language does. Husband like reading stuff like that sometimes. I enjoy modern texts set in present day. But then, I am a bit dim.

    The photo is lovely.

    Well I never. You and cantueso teaming up against a charming little book from the 19th century. It just doesn’t make sense. You’re a librarian for pity’s sake!

    Glad you liked the photo though. Thanks!

    • I’m a very modern Librarian! I’m not very good at reader’s advisory. I read light fiction, crime/detective novels, and novels by Brits. Not much to go on there!

      Well at least you admit it. Gutenberg is probably rolling over in his grave, assuming that he’s dead. And buried. But I’m sure I’d love to visit your library. Cuz I’m a library slut.

  7. I’m halfway through Three Men in a Boat and really enjoying it. It’s very funny, that part you quoted is almost an aberration. i think Jerome K Jerome must have been a very interesting man.

    THANK YOU Nursemyra! I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I’m a little past halfway, and agree that passage is an aberration. But a beautiful one.

    Google-image-search Mr. Jerome and you’ll see some images that look to be from the Gimcrack Hospital!

    • oh yes, he had quite the hairstyle didn’t he? I’ve just read the part where they made Irish Stew… hysterical.

      I’m not up to that part yet. I usually read in bed, a habit which while helpful for sleeping, does not expedite my progress through most books. So now you’ve given me something to look forward to in the coming pages. Thanks!

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