The Spacious Firmament

The Spacious Firmament

As we enter into the dark half of the year in the northern hemisphere, the night sky takes on extra luminosity and mystery. The vast cosmos whirls overhead as we contemplate our small place in the great universe. Here at the autumn equinox, we contemplate the balance of light and dark, in the length of our days and nights, and in our own lives. We may strive for balance, but it is elusive, and even when attained, is a matter of continual minute adjustments to maintain. Life is a flow, a wheel, ever in motion like the planets and the stars.

This summer I’ve created a new print, The Spacious Firmament, combining my calligraphy, watercolor painting, and layout skills, to evoke the wonder we feel when looking at the night sky. The design is very much about balance and symmetry, and speaks to our desire for a known order in the universe.

The English writer Joseph Addison expressed this quite lyrically in his 18th century poem The Spacious Firmament.

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled Heavens, a shining frame
Their great Original proclaim.
The unwearied Sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator’s power display,
And publishes to every land
The Work of an almighty Hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The Moon takes up the wondrous tale;
And nightly to the listening Earth
Repeats the story of Her birth;
While all the Stars that round Her burn
And all the Planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though no real voice nor sound
Amid the Radiant Orbs be found?
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious Voice,
Forever singing as they shine,
The Hand that made us is Divine.

This hymn has often appeared in Revels productions around the country, which is where I first heard it. Published in England in 1712, exactly 300 years ago, it is commonly sung as a hymn, to the tune of music by Franz Josef Haydn, an oratorio written in 1798 called Creation. It has also been included in an opera entitled Noye’s Fludde (Noah’s Flood) by Benjamin Britten in the twentieth century.

I hope you enjoy this new celestial art work!

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