To the Aurora Borealis

By Christopher Pearse Cranch

Arctic fount of holiest light
Springing through the winter night,
Spreading far beyond yon hill
When the earth is dark and still,
Rippling o’er the stars, as streams
Ripple o’er their pebble-gleams --
Oh, for names, thou vision fair,
To express thy splendors rare!

Blush upon the cheek of night,
Posthumous, unearthly light,
Dream of the deep-sunken sun,
Beautiful, sleep-walking one,
Sister of the moonlight pale,
Star-obscuring, meteor-veil,
Spread by heaven’s watching vestals,
Sender of the gleamy crystals,
Darting on their arrowy course
From their glittering, polar source,
Upward where the air doth freeze,
Round the sister Pleiades --
Beautiful and rare Aurora,
In the heavens thou art their Flora,
Night-blowing Cereus of the sky,
Rose of amaranthine dye,
Hyacinth of purple light,
Or their Lily clad in white!

Who can name thy wondrous essence,
Thou electric Phosphorescence?
Lonely apparition fire!
Seeker of the starry quire!
Restless roamer of the sky,
Who hath won thy mystery?
Mortal science hath not ran
With thee through the Empyrean,
Where the constellations cluster
Flower-like on thy branchy lustre!

After all the glare and toil,
And the daylight’s fretful coil,
Thou dost come so mild and still,
Hearts with love and peace to fill;
As when after revelry
With a talking company,
Where the blaze of many lights
Fell on fools and parasites,
One by one the guests have gone,
And we find ourselves alone,
Only one sweet maiden near,
With a sweet voice low and clear
Murmuring music in our ear—
So thou talkest to the earth,
After daylight’s weary mirth.

Is not human fantasy,
Wild Aurora, likest thee,
Blossoming in nightly dreams
Like thy shifting meteor-gleams?

But a better type thou art
Of the strivings of the heart,
Reaching upwards from the earth
To the Soul that gave it birth.
When the noiseless beck of night
Summons out the inner light,
That hath hid its purer ray
Through the lapses of the day --
Then like thee, thou northern Morn,
Instincts which we deemed unborn,
Gushing from their hidden source,
Mount upon their heavenward course,
And the spirit seeks to be
Filled with God’s Eternity.


Source: The Dial (July 1840) pp. 11-12