Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Nightfall

Foreword--In the vein of 'Jerusalem', I have written a sample descriptive piece (the genre that is taught this term). It is merely 765 words long, and is loosely adapted from a Sec 3 piece I wrote long ago. My last writing assignment included titles like: Fury, 'Life is a walking shadow', Dance, Worship and 'Beasts and Beauties'. I have tried squeezing all five ideas into this piece. It is still far from perfect, but it does illustrate the main principles of descriptive writing:


Nightfall. A thin shaft of electric light peered gently through the misty panes. I rubbed the cold, glassy flames and drank in welcome relief. No longer the harsh glare of day or the strangling noose of work. Peace, for now and a shrouding, redeeming darkness.

The beautiful night beckoned. A calm and quiet street, a dog barking in the distance and soft breezes caressing frolicking leaves; an old man, drunk and swaying, danced to a mystical rhythm all his own. A marvelous conductor of shadow’s symphonies, he capered to the unseen. I moved to the door and unlocked it.

Freedom.

The night wind streamed across my face as I stepped out into the trembling peace. I heard the soft stirrings of wind and the distant echoes of falling water—the gentle songs that had been perennially stifled by the mechanized pandemonium of day. The old man swayed by, mumbling a prayer—a delirious, knowing smile on his face.

‘Never so sane as one insane…ha…’

He went by. I looked at him as he disappeared into the shrouding mist. I walked into the mist, but in another direction.

“Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

Houses floated in and out of view—the architecture of dreams. Nothing was very real, yes. It was the alchemy of night—implacable reality transforming into pregnant, shadowy possibilities. The lofty stars smiled and the moon floated near the horizon, as if uncertain whether to embrace the hard earth, or simply ascend so high as to be seen no more.

‘To be or not to be, that is the question.’

Or perhaps her wings were pinioned. Are such choices always available? The promises of night could well be shadows of shadows.

My school was never so peaceful in the day. It was the citadel of reality. Yet at night… Well. I was headed there now--down the road, across the twisty bends, and through a little hole at the side of the granite entrance. An ascending hill, then a golden flame of granite Time that rose into the timeless skies.

A fresh breeze, sweeping through the dreams of time, caressed the earth. Some say this school is old—about eight decades altogether. The moon hovered above the cracked, grey terraces and the monolithic clock tower. The pillars and fa├žade reminded one of the glories of Greece and Rome. No doubt the same moon and stars were overlooking the Parthenon of Athens that had stood for more than two millennia. Age is always relative. The earth itself is older than the moon and many of the stars. Yet time was born when the earth was merely a distant vision.

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death”

Man is a ‘thinking reed’; fragile and weak compared to the mighty stars, yet superior because of the burden and gift of consciousness. The cosmos is asleep, but in man, it has awakened to its own beauty and terror—of the dance of time, birth, death, grief and joy. Does it signify anything? An infant in time, a god in swaddling bands--perhaps humanity, like myself, needs to grow up before we can know these things.

The clock tower struck twelve. Midnight—the deepest darkness and now it must inevitably fade, and yield to inexorable light. A slow rumbling; from the skies this time, and a flash of serpentine fire lit the school in brilliant truth.

The mist cleared as sharp winds swept down. The gentle dance of leaves became a furious, hissing pandemonium. Another flash and a roar—then a baptism of cleansing rain.

The starlight broke and vanished amidst gathering gloom. The rain and the winds swept the naked, exposed school. Nature and man gathered into one dance. Amidst the music of night and rain, implacable civilization and wild fury dissolve in the womb of mysterious, pregnant Night.

New possibilities, infant hopes and divine dreams never rise save from the dissolution of incomplete order and temporary truths. ‘War is the father of all things,’ said Heraclitus, and Night is their mother.

‘And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.’

I gazed into the night and its Mystery, worshipping the fire and the wind.