Wednesday, February 25, 2009

TC: Earthshine

"the old moon in the new moon's arms."


for Vincent

The waxing crescent moon with furred nimbus
Of a cold milky mouse grave October
Blurring into blue dark Mare Nectaris
Endymion ringed with pearly fog
Mare Crisium and Mare Undarum
Old moon yearning in the new moon's arms
Every loose thread left dangling
At dusk Saturn rises out of the ocean
Heavenly waters so tired of waiting
Aquatic constellations swim into view
Aquarius Capricornus Pisces
Venus ascends four a.m. with the tide
White day opening not that far behind it
Swallows tossed wide around a calm sky

Tom Clark

(Also known as the Moon's "ashen glow" or "the old Moon in the new Moon's arms", Earthshine is Earthlight reflected from the Moon's night side. A description of Earthshine, in terms of sunlight reflected by Earth's oceans in turn illuminating the Moon's dark surface, was written 500 years ago by Leonardo da Vinci.)


elanecu said...

Thanks, Tom. P.Spens lives!


Dale said...

Tom, thanks for the lunar geography, and for the Coleridge woven therein. I'll have to check out the da Vinci. Did you happen to see comet Lulin passing through Scorpio this week?

Beautiful poem....

Joe Safdie said...

Tom, I think I saw that moon rising over the lip of the Oakland Coliseum the last time we saw a game there twenty years ago: good to "see" you again in this odd venue. As it happens, I just taught Byron, who thought Keats was snuffed out by a bad review of "Endymion" . . .

Note to starwatchers: check out Venus in the new moon's arm Friday night -- closest they've been to each other in years. (The word verification was "duckshi" -- is that what they're serving these days at Chez Panisse?)

TC said...


Well, all venues seem odd to me these days. Venus, venues... what's in a word? (Oh well--an "e", it seems.)

It's good to "see" you, too, through this cloudy screen. As to the current fare @ CP, of course, how would I know--it may well indeed be "duckshi", though I'd tend to suspect Rubber Cow. (And for that matter, speaking of these curious pseudo-culinary linguals, I've just now been offered a side order of "voleadio".)



I missed Lulin, but on an idle ramble through You Tube lately I did catch an ancient video of Lulu, performing forty-odd years ago on Top of the Pops. Ah, long-ago Thursday evenings by the North Sea, when the landlord and his missus were out at the pub and one could sneak into their parlour to peek at the telly. Now Lulu Kennedy-Cairns, O.B.E. How time flies and distinction is variably rewarded.

As to the nocturnal heavens, though... Well, it's been raining here pretty steadily for the past three weeks, rendering the night sky--in this respect perhaps not unlike the contents of the cerebrum--a dense cloud web, the moon and planets meanwhile a mere memory. There was, however, to be exact, one night, about two weeks ago, when above the wet trees certain distant things, presumably stars, did faintly glow and twinkle. But still no moon and thus no earthshine, that night.

In attempting to confirm the astronomical basis of the poem, however, it is just possible to dimly recall, over the fleeting years, certain moments, slightly before or slightly after a new moon, when light reflected off the earth did in fact cause a certain "unearthly" lunar shininess, in the otherwise endarkened areas of the said moon, to become visible. Briefly. Yet actually...

And had one been standing on the moon at such times, one supposes, the earth would then have appeared at full phase, and shone quite brightly. Whereas, standing on the earth on any night hereabouts at present, nothing at all is clear, and all that is bright are the headlights. Ah well, etc.



Indeed they knew a thing or two, those Old Masters.

Late, late yestreen I saw the new Moon,
With the old Moon in her arms,
And I fear, I fear, my Master dear!
We shall have a deadly storm.