Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Weekly Geek! 'Shadow of Night'

This installment of Weekly Geek is a theme continuation from the last time we published one of these: All Souls Trilogy titles. Having already covered A Discovery of Witches, this time we're covering...you guessed it: Shadow of Night!

You can thank none other than George Chapman.  It just so happens that one of his best known poems is titled "The Shadow of Night."  It was dedicated "To My Deare and Most Worthy friend,  Master Matthew Roydon". Coincidence?  No.  It's a pretty safe bet that Ms. Harkness may have spent more than a little time with good ol' George while she was deep down in the Matthew Roydon rabbit hole in graduate school!*

Click the image to enlarge.
Here's the thing . . . the George Chapman we meet in Shadow of Night (SON) comes across to the reader as meek, mild and approachable compared to the rest of Matthew's raucous posse.   In the story that's how we perceive him — sweet, unassuming, George — he's the one who tutors Diana; assists her in gaining her general bearings in the 16th century, dutifully helps with the extensive search for Ashmole 782, and slaves away on his translation of Homer (more on that subject another time.  Suffice it to say, we Daemons suspect a certain Gael and/or his moody uncle may have put a bug in George's ear about that one.)  What SON doesn't show us is that George is the poetry equivalent to a rock star's rock star!  You know who we mean...that old Blues legend that every rock-god cites as source of inspiration and influence.  Well friends, our mild-mannered George is essentially the Muddy Waters of poetry.  He's part of the reason that the English Romantics, particularly John Keats (who was moved to write "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer"), and Percy Bysshe Shelley  became so "mad, bad and dangerous to know!" Who would've thought?! If you only knew of George Chapman from the novel, Shadow of Night, you'd have no earthly idea how influential he actually was.  Harkness has confirmed that this is by design; her writings touch the surfaces of the stories of various historical figures to perhaps tempt the reader to dig a little deeper.  In our case, it worked!

Onto "The Shadow of Night!"  It's a poem in two parts, modeled on Greek hymns.  It's full of allegorical references to the Greek and Roman gods.  It's been characterized as a heroic poem which laments the loss of true knowledge and virtue (it seems the same complaints we hear today about the 'dumbing-down' of society are nothing new).  The first hymn seems to have a special kinship to the world of AST, and really appeals to our daemon sensibilities!  It's a hymn to Night as a primordial goddess.  She is praised in part, for the inspired melancholy she brings.  This 'inspired melancholy' is a desired state because it allows for deep introspection, self examination, and contemplation of the world.  The daylight hours, in contrast, are devoted to trivial distractions.  Who better to take full advantage of the night than a scholarly vampire with little need for sleep?  In fact, we may know the poster child for Chapman's inspired melancholy! :)  Now reading the dedication to Matthew Roydon makes absolute sense - at least in the AST universe!   Although the Matthew we know may take issue at the repeated references to 'glitter' — (!) ;)

Alex Ruiz "Starry Night"
We could go on for hours examining the varied themes in this poem — it's one of the many hazards of being a daemon — but we will spare you that, and leave you with some links below for your own exploration, including a biography, an expert's take on the occult themes in "The Shadow of Night" (hello elemental magic!), and a link to a collection of George's poems.

Go forth!
feed your daemons!

Biography:  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/george-chapman
Critique:   http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/VolumeVI/Chapman.htm
Poetry, including Shadow of Night: https://archive.org/stream/worksofgeorgecha00chapuoft/worksofgeorgecha00chapuoft_djvu.txt

* For those who didn't understand the reference, Deb's mentioned it during the different stops on her tour this year; Matthew Roydon was an elusive man in her research during her graduate studies! Thus, "the rabbit hole" ;)

P.S. If you have something you'd like us to explore on Weekly Geekcontact us!  You may find your curiosities addressed on one of our future geekly posts! Do you enjoy our posts and features?  Subscribe to Daemons Domain!  You can unsubscribe at anytime.