For centuries, the night sky has inspired visual, auditory, literary, and now cinematic works. Darkness, and access to the heavenly phenomena that shine within it, must be preserved if more nighttime masterpieces are to be created.  

Adams, Ansel. Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California. 1960. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA.

Adams, Ansel. Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California. 1960. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA.


van Rijn, Rembrandt. The Night Watch. 1642. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands. 


Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein. London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones, 1818.


white night 

All night

I float

in the shallow ponds

while the moon wanders...

...I don't want to argue anymore

about all the things

I thought I could not 

live without!...

...I want to flow out 

across the mother

of all waters

I want to lose myself

on the black

and silky currents...

Oliver, Mary. "White Night." New and Selected Poems, Volume One. Massachusetts, Beacon Press, 1992.

Ebell, Paul Heinrich. Winter Moon. 1940. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA.

Ebell, Paul HeinrichWinter Moon. 1940. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA.


Night and the City. Dir. Jules Dassin. Screenplay by Jo Eisinger. Perf. Harry Fabian and Mary Bristol.

Night and the City. Dir. Jules Dassin. Screenplay by Jo Eisinger. Perf. Harry Fabian and Mary Bristol.


Goya, Francisco. The Third of May 1808. 1814. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. 



Acquainted with the Night

I have been one acquainted with the night. 
I have walked out in rainand back in rain. 
I have outwalked the furthest city light. 

I have looked down the saddest city lane. 
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain. 

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street, 

But not to call me back or say good-bye; 
And further still at an unearthly height, 
One luminary clock against the sky 

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. 
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Frost, Robert. "Acquainted with the Night." The Poetry of Robert Frost. Ed. Edward Connery Lathem. New York: Henry Holt, 1979.


Blakelock, Ralph Albert. Moonlight. 1886. Corcoran Gallery of  Art, Washington, DC.



James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1898.

James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1898.


Whistler, James Abbott McNeill. Nocturne in Black and Gold. 1875-77. Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI. 


The Postman Always Rings Twice. Dir. Tay Garnett. Screenplay by Harry Ruskin and Niven Busch. Perf. Lana Turner and John Garfield.

The Postman Always Rings Twice. Dir. Tay Garnett. Screenplay by Harry Ruskin and Niven Busch. Perf. Lana Turner and John Garfield.


The First Night

The worst thing about death must be
the first night.
    —Juan Ramón Jiménez

Before I opened you, Jiménez,
it never occurred to me that day and night
would continue to circle each other in the ring of death,

but now you have me wondering
if there will also be a sun and a moon
and will the dead gather to watch them rise and set

then repair, each soul alone,
to some ghastly equivalent of a bed.
Or will the first night be the only night,

a darkness for which we have no other name?
How feeble our vocabulary in the face of death,
How impossible to write it down.

This is where language will stop,
the horse we have ridden all our lives
rearing up at the edge of a dizzying cliff.

The word that was in the beginning
and the word that was made flesh—
those and all the other words will cease.

Even now, reading you on this trellised porch,
how can I describe a sun that will shine after death?
But it is enough to frighten me

into paying more attention to the world’s day-moon,
to sunlight bright on water
or fragmented in a grove of trees,

and to look more closely here at these small leaves,
these sentinel thorns,
whose employment it is to guard the rose.

Collins, Billy. "The First Night" Ballistics: Poems. New York: Random House, 2010.

Tanizaki, Jun'ichirō. In Praise of Shadows. Trans. Thomas Harper and Edward Seidensticker. Sedgwick, ME: Leete's Island Books, 1977. 

Tanizaki, Jun'ichirō. In Praise of Shadows. Trans. Thomas Harper and Edward Seidensticker. Sedgwick, ME: Leete's Island Books, 1977. 


Remington, Frederic. The Hunters' Supper. 1909. National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK. 



Magritte, René. The Empire of Light. 1953-54. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. 


stars over the dordogne

Stars are dropping thick as stones into the twiggy
Picket of trees whose silhouette is darker
Than the dark of the sky because it is quite starless.
The woods are a well. The stars drop silently.
They seem large, yet they drop, and no gap is visible.
Nor do they send up fires where they fall
Or any signal of distress or anxiousness.
They are eaten immediately by the pines.

Where I am at home, only the sparsest stars
Arrive at twilight, and then after some effort.
And they are wan, dulled by much travelling.
The smaller and more timid never arrive at all
But stay, sitting far out, in their own dust.
They are orphans. I cannot see them. They are lost.
But tonight they have discovered this river with no trouble,
They are scrubbed and self-assured as the great planets.

The Big Dipper is my only familiar.
I miss Orion and Cassiopeia's Chair. Maybe they are
Hanging shyly under the studded horizon
Like a child's too-simple mathematical problem.
Infinite number seems to be the issue up there.
Or else they are present, and their disguise so bright
I am overlooking them by looking too hard.
Perhaps it is the season that is not right.

And what if the sky here is no different,
And it is my eyes that have been sharpening themselves?
Such a luxury of stars would embarrass me.
The few I am used to are plain and durable;
I think they would not wish for this dressy backcloth
Or much company, or the mildness of the south.
They are too puritan and solitary for that—
When one of them falls it leaves a space,

A sense of absence in its old shining place.
And where I lie now, back to my own dark star,
I see those constellations in my head,
Unwarmed by the sweet air of this peach orchard.
There is too much ease here; these stars treat me too well.
On this hill, with its view of lit castles, each swung bell
Is accounting for its cow. I shut my eyes
And drink the small night chill like news of home.

Plath, Sylvia. "Stars Over the Dordogne." Poetry, Volume 99, Number 6. March 1962.


Bronfen, Elisabeth. Night Passages: Philosophy, Literature, and Film. Trans. David Brenner. New York: Columbia, NY, 2008.

Bronfen, Elisabeth. Night Passages: Philosophy, Literature, and Film. Trans. David Brenner. New York: Columbia, NY, 2008.


Millet, Jean-François. Hunting Birds at Night. 1874. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA. 

Millet, Jean-François. Hunting Birds at Night. 1874. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA. 



Selivanov, Ivan Mykhailovych. A Silent Ukrainian Night. 1960. The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA.

Selivanov, Ivan MykhailovychA Silent Ukrainian Night. 1960. The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA.


Night Funeral in Harlem

Night funeral
In Harlem:

Where did they get
Them two fine cars?

Insurance man, he did not pay—
His insurance lapsed the other day—
Yet they got a satin box
for his head to lay.

Night funeral
In Harlem:

Who was it sent
That wreath of flowers?

Them flowers came
from that poor boy’s friends—
They’ll want flowers, too,
When they meet their ends.

Night funeral
in Harlem:

Who preached that
Black boy to his grave?

Old preacher man
Preached that boy away—
Charged Five Dollars
His girl friend had to pay.

Night funeral
In Harlem:

When it was all over
And the lid shut on his head
and the organ had done played
and the last prayers been said
and six pallbearers
Carried him out for dead
And off down Lenox Avenue
That long black hearse done sped,
The street light
At his corner
Shined just like a tear—
That boy that they was mournin’
Was so dear, so dear
To them folks that brought the flowers,
To that girl who paid the preacher man—
It was all their tears that made
That poor boy’s
Funeral grand.

Night funeral
In Harlem.

Hughes, Langston. "Night Funeral in Harlem." The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. Ed. Arnold Rampersad. New York: Vintage Classics, 1995.

Luna (Moon). 1465. The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA. 

Luna (Moon). 1465. The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA. 



van Gogh, Vincent. Starry Night Over the Rhone. 1888. Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France.


The Big Sleep. Dir. Howard Hawks. Screenplay by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman. Perf. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

The Big Sleep. Dir. Howard Hawks. Screenplay by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman. Perf. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.


Walpole, Horace. The Castle of Otranto.  London: William Bathoe. 1764.

Walpole, Horace. The Castle of Otranto.  London: William Bathoe. 1764.



Star-Talk

'Are you awake, Gemelli, 
This frosty night?' 
'We'll be awake till reveillé, 
Which is Sunrise,' say the Gemelli, 
'It's no good trying to go to sleep: 
If there's wine to be got we'll drink it deep, 
But rest is hopeless to-night, 
But rest is hopeless to-night.' 

'Are you cold too, poor Pleiads, 
This frosty night?' 
'Yes, and so are the Hyads: 
See us cuddle and hug,' say the Pleiads, 
'All six in a ring: it keeps us warm: 
We huddle together like birds in a storm: 
It's bitter weather to-night, 
It's bitter weather to-night.' 

'What do you hunt, Orion, 
This starry night?' 
'The Ram, the Bull and the Lion, 
And the Great Bear,' says Orion, 
'With my starry quiver and beautiful belt
I am trying to find a good thick pelt
To warm my shoulders to-night, 
To warm my shoulders to-night. 

'Did you hear that, Great She-bear, 
This frosty night? 
'Yes, he's talking of stripping me bare
Of my own big fur,' says the She-bear, 
'I'm afraid of the man and his terrible arrow: 
The thought of it chills my bones to the marrow, 
And the frost so cruel to-night! 
And the frost so cruel to-night!' 

'How is your trade, Aquarius, 
This frosty night?' 
'Complaints is many and various
And my feet are cold,' says Aquarius, 
'There's Venus objects to Dolphin-scales, 
And Mars to Crab-spawn found in my pails, 
And the pump has frozen to-night, 
And the pump has frozen to-night.'

Graves, Robert. "Star-Talk." The Year's at the Spring. New York: Brentano's, 1920.

Hopper, Edward. Nighthawks. 1942. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL. 


Stoker, Bram. Dracula. London: Archibald Constable and Company, 1897.

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. London: Archibald Constable and Company, 1897.


Feininger, Lyonel. Segelboote mit Mond (Sailboats with Moon). 1919. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA.

Feininger, LyonelSegelboote mit Mond (Sailboats with Moon). 1919. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA.


He Walked By Night. Dir. Alfred Werker. Screenplay by Crane Wilbur and John C. Higgins. Perf. Richard Basehart and Scott Brady.

He Walked By Night. Dir. Alfred Werker. Screenplay by Crane Wilbur and John C. Higgins. Perf. Richard Basehart and Scott Brady.


Poe, Edgar Allan. The Fall of the House of Usher. Philadelphia, PA: Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, 1839.

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Fall of the House of Usher. Philadelphia, PA: Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, 1839.


O'Keefe, Georgia. Ladder to the Moon. 1958. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA. 

O'Keefe, Georgia. Ladder to the Moon. 1958. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA. 


Steir, Pat, et Al. Starry Night. 1996. The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA 

Steir, Pat, et Al. Starry Night. 1996. The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA 


Hopper, Edward. Boy and Moon. 1906-07. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA.

Hopper, Edward. Boy and Moon. 1906-07. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA.


Picasso, Pablo. Minotaure Aveugle Guidé par Marie-Thérèse au Pigeon dans une Nuit Étoilée (Blind Minotaur Led by Marie-Thérèse with a Dove in a Starry Night). 1934. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA.

Picasso, Pablo. Minotaure Aveugle Guidé par Marie-Thérèse au Pigeon dans une Nuit Étoilée (Blind Minotaur Led by Marie-Thérèse with a Dove in a Starry Night). 1934. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA.


Lazerges, Paul Jean Baptiste. An Arab Encampment at Night. 1845-1902. Private Collection.

Lazerges, Paul Jean Baptiste. An Arab Encampment at Night. 1845-1902. Private Collection.


Night

The sun descending in the west,
The evening star does shine;
The birds are silent in their nest.
And I must seek for mine.
The moon, like a flower
In heaven's high bower,
With silent delight
Sits and smiles on the night.

Farewell, green fields and happy grove,
Where flocks have took delight:
Where lambs have nibbled, silent move
The feet of angels bright;
Unseen they pour blessing
And joy without ceasing
On each bud and blossom
And each sleeping bosom.

They look in every thoughtless nest
Where birds are cover'd warm:
They visit caves of every beast,
To keep them all from harm:
If they see any weeping
That should have been sleeping,
They pour sleep in their head,
And sit down by their bed.

When wolves and tigers howl for prey,
They pitying stand and weep,
Seeking to drive their thirst away
And keep them from the sheep.
But, if they rush dreadful,
The angels, most heedful,
Receive each mild spirit,
New worlds to inherit.

And there the lions ruddy eyes
Shall flow with tears of gold:
And pitying the tender cries,
And walking round the fold:
Saying, 'Wrath, by His meekness,
And, by His health, sickness,
Are driven away
From our immortal day.

'And now beside thee, bleating lamb,
I can lie down and sleep,
Or think on Him who bore thy name,
Graze after thee, and weep.
For, wash'd in life's river,
My bright mane for ever
Shall shine like the gold
As I guard o'er the fold.'

Blake, William. "Night." The Oxford Book of English Verse. Ed. Christopher Ricks. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Dossi, Dosso. The Adoration of the Kings. 1530-42. The National Gallery, London, England. 

Dossi, Dosso. The Adoration of the Kings. 1530-42. The National Gallery, London, England. 


Woolf, Virginia. Night and Day. London: Duckworth, 1898.

Woolf, Virginia. Night and Day. London: Duckworth, 1898.



Rousseau, Henri. The Sleeping Gypsy. 1897. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. 


Wharton, Edith. Twilight Sleep. New York: Pictorial Review Company, 1927. 

Wharton, Edith. Twilight Sleep. New York: Pictorial Review Company, 1927. 


Moskowitz, Robert. Moon Dog. 1988. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA.

Moskowitz, RobertMoon Dog. 1988. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA.


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Thomas, Dylan. "Do not go gentle into that good night." The Poems of Dylan Thomas. Ed. Daniel Jones. New York: New Directions, 2003.

Ryder, Albert Pinkahm. Moonlit Cove. 1880-85. The Phillips Connection, Washington, DC. 


Laura. Dir. Otto Preminger. Screenplay by Vera Caspary, Jay Dratler, and Betty Reinhardt. Perf. Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews.


van Gogh, Vincent. The Starry Night. 1889. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. 

van Gogh, Vincent. The Starry Night. 1889. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. 


Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. London: Thomas Cautley Newby. 1847.

Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. London: Thomas Cautley Newby. 1847.


Dover Beach

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Arnold, Matthew. "Dover Beach." New Poems. London: MacMillan, 1867.

Buhot, Félix-Hilaire. Les Noctaumbules (The Night Prowlers). 1876-1877. The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA.

Buhot, Félix-HilaireLes Noctaumbules (The Night Prowlers). 1876-1877. The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA.