The Light of Stars


by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A cup of warm chamomile tea in the J cup while reading The Light in Stars
The night is come, but not too soon;
And sinking silently,
All silently, the little moon
Drops down behind the sky.
There is no light in earth or heaven
But the cold light of stars;
And the first watch of night is given
To the red planet Mars.
Is it the tender star of love?
The star of love and dreams?
O no! from that blue tent above,
A hero's armor gleams.
And earnest thoughts within me rise,
When I behold afar,
Suspended in the evening skies,
The shield of that red star.
O star of strength! I see thee stand
And smile upon my pain;
Thou beckonest with thy mailed hand,
And I am strong again.
Within my breast there is no light
But the cold light of stars;
I give the first watch of the night
To the red planet Mars.
The star of the unconquered will,
He rises in my breast,
Serene, and resolute, and still,
And calm, and self-possessed.
And thou, too, whosoe'er thou art,
That readest this brief psalm,
As one by one thy hopes depart,
Be resolute and calm.
O fear not in a world like this,
And thou shalt know erelong,
Know how sublime a thing it is
To suffer and be strong.

Just before heading off to bed early last week, I read this poem, The Light of Stars. I had never read this particular Longfellow piece before. I found this comforting poem while digging through the public domain for poetry to present at Poetry + Tea Thursday with two favorite faces of mine (BB+J?--we’re, uh, workshopping a group name still).

Reading The Light in Stars by candlelight at the windowsill with a hot chamomile tea and quilts

To be frank, Poetry + Tea Thursday has only happened once so far, but I’m aching for it to happen again soon. See, each week, I and my two besties, who both live thousands of miles from me, gather together via FaceTime in catchin’ up. I learn something new each time. We have a set topic and do a show and tell of sorts. It’s loads of fun. I’ll tell you about it some more another day.

Anway, I didn’t present The Light of Stars but instead chose to read a few pieces from Hope Florence’s first collection, A Conversation with the Universe. I’m glad I didn’t share Longfellow’s because B recited (via memory) another favorited Longfellow to the chat--The Tide Rises and The Tide Falls. She was marvelous, by the way.

Reading the Light in Stars by candlelight near the windowsill on a stormy evening

He (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, that is) is a well known poet, and a man I studied in college, a man with a taste for travel, nature, words, and beauty. He admired Washington Irving’s work, and I see a lot of Irving in Longfellow’s writings. Now that I live in New England, I see a lot of Longfellow. He has nature trails named after him, which I do think he’d be very happy with that little homage. He has book shops and restaurants and historical markers in his name. He is more than well known in New England, he is as much of New England as the White Mountains, or the cape cod seals, or the northern lights on the border of Maine and Canada.

And in reading this poem, The Light of Stars, I hunger for that same sky. But this poem is so much more than looking up at the night sky with wandering eyes.

As I read his words, sipping on a warm cozy chamomile tea, he lulled me to a place of calm. The es alliteration as he begins “sinking silently, All silently” ushers a sense of calm and comfort, right from the start.

The rhythm throughout the entirety of the poem is steady, adding a vocal layer that evokes and encourages calm and quiet strength. As he alludes to Mars, the ancient Roman god of war, he conjures a sense of unity within me. Pain isolates. When deep in heartache, my whole body and mind and heart focus solely on the pain of it. But war, well as war reflects that isolated pain, it too calls out the other pieces of me, calling on strength--giving this ace a sense of purpose--wholeness, compassion, and growth.

I leaned into those encouraging words, out of pain is strength. The night sky is a quiet sky, not as vibrant or bright as its counterpart Day, but it still shimmers and gleams even though it is small. This image of a night sky speaks so loudly of a quiet hope, a growing strength.

If you’d like to learn more about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the Poetry Foundation wrote an extensive, thorough biography to introduce you to the American Poet.

Also, if you’d like to find more pieces by HWL, I invite you to go digging in the public domain. This is a good starting point.

Thank you for reading my response to Longfellow’s The Light of Stars. I hope you enjoyed it, or further, it inspired you to pick up some of his work. You are greatly appreciated. May you find a light, even if it be but small may it be yours.

Hold on Tight,