According to legend, Fata Morgana (Italian for fairy Morgan) was the half-sister of King Arthur. Morgan, who was said to live in a crystal palace beneath the water, had magical powers that could build fantastic castles out of thin air. Looking across the Straits of Messina (between Italy and Sicily), residents of Reggio, Italy, on occasion would see buildngs, castles, and sometimes whole cities appear, only to vanish again in minutes.

The Fata Morgana is a mirage that tranforms a fairly uniform horizon into one which rises vertically above the horizon. This mirage occurs where the air temperature increases with elevation above the surface. Thus, mirages like the Fata Morgana are often seen where warm air rests above a cold surface such as large bodies of water and polar regions.
Source: Essentials of Meteorology by C. Donald Ahrens

Fata Morgana

O SWEET illusions of song
That tempt me everywhere,
In the lonely fields, and the throng
Of the crowded thoroughfare!

I approach and ye vanish away,

I grasp you, and ye are gone;
But ever by night and by day,
The melody soundeth on.

As the weary traveller sees

In desert or prairie vast,
Blue lakes, overhung with trees
That a pleasant shadow cast;

Fair towns with turrets high,

And shining roofs of gold,
That vanish as he draws nigh,
Like mists together rolled --

So I wander and wander along,

And forever before me gleams
The shining city of song,
In the beautiful land of dreams.

But when I would enter the gate

Of that golden atmosphere,
It is gone, and I wonder and wait
For the vision to reappear.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Probably the best thing about endeavoring to learn about poetry and poems for myself is that I can choose what catches my interests as opposed to having it forced upon me as it often is in school.This poem is from Birds of Passage, Flight the Third (1873). Longfellow was recognized in his lifetime and I think a new work by him was looked forward to. Bob Blair from The Poet's corner, an ardent admirer writes:
    "Part of the Longfellow caricature is of a poet self-consciously poetic (and) Longfellow's Fata Morgana has a lot of archaic conventions in it, but at heart it is a plain complaint about the impossibility of achieving perfection. "

Not only is Fata Mogana known as the legendary sister of King Authur but it's also a term used by Sicilians as the name of a mirage that manifests during certain seasons off the Calabrian coast.


Part of the Longfellow caricature is of a poet self-consciously ...:

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

CST Approved
A recurring short skit series in the hilarious Norwegian TV-program Åpen Post. Actors Harald Eia and Classe Ekman play two anti-media zealots, with their own airtime. Since the participants of Fata Morgana are the only ones not aware of the irony of bringing hardcore anti-TV messages out on TV, they try as hard as they can to disrupt the program with their messages. Sadly for Fata Morgana, they like to be on TV, even though they are supposed to hate it. Each time they discover things like having groupies, free soda in the studio and other small pleasures.
The also try to get the message out by dancing like robots at the end of each skit while singing "We're dancing like robots". Weird.

Sample skit:
Harald Eia: Awww, look at the small puppy (holds a plush puppy), think of puppies and a sommer day. Think of your girlfriend walking through a meadow...
Classe Ekman: HIROSHIMA!!! NAGASAKI!!! GEORGE BUSH!!! (Pictures of atom explosions flash on the screen.)
Harald Eia: That was an example of the duality of media.

Fa"ta Mor*ga"na (?). [It.; -- so called because this phenomenon was looked upon as the work of a fairy (It. fata) of the name of Morgána. See Fairy.]

A kind of mirage by which distant objects appear inverted, distorted, displaced, or multiplied. It is noticed particularly at the Straits of Messina, between Calabria and Sicily.


© Webster 1913.

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