Stilling the Thunder ~ Trembling the Veil

At morning twilight on Tuesday, June 13, an hour before the Sun, the waning crescent Moon will slip past Jupiter in the East, stilling the thunderer with the dawn’s light. Tuesday is also the anniversary of the birth of Irish poet William Butler Yeats in 1865, one of the most notable literary figures of the 20th century.

So what has Yeats to do with the waning Moon and Jupiter at dawn, other than that they’ll be beautiful on his birthday? In classical times, Jupiter was associated with Zeus, king of the gods and wielder of the thunderbolt. But in the morning light this week, the Moon brings stillness to the mighty thunderer, with subtlety and perhaps even cunning, for who would dare tame such a being?

Then there’s Yeats, who, in 1922, privately published an autobiographical work called “The Trembling of the Veil.” In the introduction he described that the inspiration for the title came from a quote by the French poet Mallarmé who had described his own era as a time that was “troubled by the trembling of the veil of the Temple.” Yeats was a known mystic, delighting in both Celtic and Irish mythologies, and it’s easy to imagine how such an image could inspire him. In 1923, one year after publishing “The Trembling of the Veil,” Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

In book two, he asks a beautiful question, which is how I arrived at the link with the morning sky narrative on the anniversary of his birth. At the end of chapter XIV he asks: “Is it not certain that the creator yawns in earthquake and thunder and other popular displays, but toils in rounding the delicate spiral of a shell?” It’s a question worth pondering this week Tuesday and Wednesday mornings especially (as shown in the cover image), in the gentle twilight, in honor of Yeats, and in harmony with the mood of the stars.

In the mystery of the dawn,


Hear this episode Monday, June 12 on Interlochen Public Radio, and at the Storyteller’s Night Sky on podcasts everywhere. Cover Image from Sky&Telescope.