Shelley and the Moon


Belted Orion hangs — warm light is flowing

From the young moon into the sunset’s chasm

—Percy Bysshe Shelley 

Shelley, a great seafaring poet, took particular notice of the celestial body that most affects the oceans. The following fragment was published posthumously by his widow, Mary, as “To the Moon”:

Art thou pale for weariness

Of climbing heaven, and gazing on the earth,

Wandering companionless

Among the stars that have a different birth,—

And ever-changing, like a joyless eye

That finds no object worth its constancy?

Leo Gaskell made the photograph above of the waxing moon (a composite of three shots) on Rainsford Island off which we had anchored for the night. Sunset that evening was at 6.08, the moon-dragged tide incoming to a high of 9.7 ft. at 9.22 p.m. We sculled back out to our boat, and set the rode to 90 ft. for the night.

“Dost thou remember yet

When the curved moon then lingering in the west

Paused, in yon waves her mighty horns to wet,

How in those beams we walked, half resting on the sea?”

—Shelley, Prince Athanese