Darkness is such a malleable and fragrant subject that embraces terror, solace, wisdom, madness, forlornness, remoteness, cunning, cleverness; it is a representation of the seething and absent power of all that is selfish, evil and covert (Sauron and Mordor in Tolkien's work) or a deep, unspeakable and enigmatic presence (G.K. Chesteron's Sunday inThe man who was Thursday). I have chosen five versions of darkness from the canon of the capital "C". It's neither exhaustive nor definitive, but at least it hopefully shows just how speckled and ambiguous the darkness is.
1. The Bible
The equation of light and god was probably first established by Persian Zoroastrianism. ButAura Mazda(whose name means Wisdom of Light) did not resistAngra Mainyubecause of the darkness - the name of this entity means "evil spirit" or "destructive mindset". Genesis begins with darkness over the abyss until God embraces that void to transform it. Again, the darkness is just an absence, not a moral horror. Moses is allowed to create "a palpable darkness" over Egypt, but God still hides in "darkness, clouds, and thick darkness" when speaking to them in the book of Deuteronomy. Reading all this, and especially later Job, the book in which darkness is mentioned most frequently ("a land of darkness above all, like darkness itself; and the shadow of death; a land without order, and where there is light like darkness", "He discovers the depths of darkness" and "Where is the way where the light dwells? Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it."
There's a dissertation on Shakespeare and the Darkness. So many scenes depend on itHeinrich VTraveling incognito through the troops, to Macbeth's gatekeeper who inadvertently realizes his role in darker deeds, to the Dark Lady's "darkness". The night in Shakespeare differs from the darkness: in the night identities are confused, merged and sometimes confiscated. The bed trick onmeasure for measureÖAll's well that ends wellit's based on not being able to see who you're fucking with;Midsummer Night's DreamIt doesn't work when they're all at a suburban diner. The play in which darkness is mentioned most often would be one that would have been seen in broad daylight:Rey Lear. Edgar, disguised as Poor Tom, cannot keep the darkness away: "He accomplished darkness with her", "The prince of darkness is a knight", "a fisherman in the lake of darkness". But the deep Shakespearean darkness is thereThe storm, an interior work, like all the late ones, and like them full of ambiguous reconciliations. "This thing of darkness I own as mine," says Prospero to Caliban. Is this appropriation or reconciliation?
"There is no light, but darkness visible": In 10 syllables, Milton evokes the paradox of hell. What makes these lines so moving is not just the intellectual sprezzatura (his inferno is not geographical like Dante, but metaphysical and impossible), but our knowledge that he was probably already blind when he dictated the line. In his unspeakably moving sonnet"About His Blindness"Milton does not speak of his own blindness; rather, he directs an inward gaze to "this vast dark world." But it is his last workSamson's agonists, which confirms Milton as the poet of insight into blindness. As Samson says, "O dark, dark, dark, amidst the noon glow / Irretrievably dark, total eclipse." He, Milton or Samson, is not describing blindness here. He describes depression and alienation and everything that worried existentialists about their absinthe. "The sun is dark to me / And still as the moon." The world is upside down and ideas have to react to it. As the devil is defeated in Paradise Regained, "darkness now arose / As daylight sank and the threatening night / Brought forth its sombre offspring, both insubstantial, / The sheer want of light and the absence of day." For blind Milton, there is no real darkness.
4. Alexander Pope
Darkness is also Dark Age; and Pope describes the horror of the cultural apocalypse better than anyone. Let's let it speak for itself:
In vain, in vain the all-composing hour
Irresistible Falls: The muse obeys the force.
She comes! She comes! the throne of the saber behold
From Night Primæval and from Chaos Old
Before her the golden clouds of imagination crumble,
And all its different rainbows are extinguished.
Ingenuity fires its momentary fires in vain,
The meteor falls and is instantly extinguished.
like one by one before the terrible tension of Medea,
The sick stars are fading on the etheric plane;
Like Argus' eyes oppressed by Hermes' wand,
One by one closed to eternal rest;
So, before his felt approach and his secret power,
Art after art fades away and all is night.
When he saw the truth haunting his old cave, he fled,
Mountains of casuistry pile up on his head!
Philosophy that formerly rested on heaven,
It is reduced to its second cause and no longer exists.
The physics of metaphysics demands defense,
And metaphysics asks for help in the sense!
Watch the flight from mystery to mathematics!
Vain! they look, they get dizzy, they go insane and they die.
Blushing religion veils its holy fires,
And inadvertently morale lapses.
Neither the public nor the private flame dare to shine;
There are neither human sparks nor divine sight!
It! your fearsome empire, Chaos! it is restored;
The light dies before your creative word:
Your hand, great anarch! let the curtain fall;
And the universal darkness buries everything.
5. James Joyce
It would be easy to hand over JoyceChapter XV, his Technicolor fantasy about darkness. It would be even easier to take the chapters after that, with their heightened legato and disconcerting slowness, their cautious nods, their slow reading. You might even give it to the endUlises, Molly wanders in her dream, but there is no darkness: the word never escapes her murmuring lips. No, the true darkness is thereFinnegans Stele, the twilight masterpiece. It's all darkness, set in the night, and Joyce's Book of Darkness, and the word darkness occurs once: “...pocket packet, gapmangunrun; the light of other days, greatly trieary dark; our horrible Father, Timur of Tortur ; confusing, surprising, shocking, no, unsettling; he puffed from the King's Brug to the new ways...". It can mean anything, it can mean nothing, but when Joyce fits a word so aptly into his own kaleidoscope of meanings, it can mean nothing, can it? Surely?
Y uno extra: Gerard Manley Hopkins
Because all the depressed here, today and everywhere at least know that someone else walked this path. Real darkness was never a matter of light.
I WAKE to feel the onset of darkness, not day.
What hours, oh, what dark hours we spent!
Tonight! what you are looking at, heart, you have seen; paths you have walked! And more should delay, in the light even longer. I say this with testimony. But when I say 5 hours, I mean years, life. And my lament is an uncountable cry, a cry like dead letters to the beloved who lives, alas! far. I'm bile, I'm heartburn. Bitter God's deepest conclusion would make me taste: my taste was I; 10
The bones were built in me, the flesh was filled, the blood brimming with the curse.
Alcohol self-yeast an acidic opaque mass. I see that the lost are like this, and their scourge, like mine, is their sweating; but worse