The Red Sunsets, 1883.


THE twilight heavens are flushed with gathering light,
    And o'er wet roofs and huddling streets below
    Hang with a strange Apocalyptic glow
On the black fringes of the wintry night.
Such bursts of glory may have rapt the sight
    Of him to whom on Patmos long ago
    The visionary angel came to show
That heavenly city built of chrysolite.


And lo, three factory hands begrimed with soot,
    Aflame with the red splendour, marvelling stand,
And gaze with lifted faces awed and mute.
    Starved of earth's beauty by Man's grudging hand,
O toilers, robbed of labour's golden fruit,
    Ye, too, may feast in Nature's fairyland.

Mathilde Blind (1841 - 1896)

The Red Sunsets, 1883.


THE boding sky was charactered with cloud,
    The scripture of the storm--but high in air,
    Where the unfathomed zenith still was bare,
A pure expanse of rose-flushed violet glowed
And, kindling into crimson light, o'erflowed
    The hurrying wrack with such a blood-red glare,
    That heaven, igniting, wildly seemed to flare
On the dazed eyes of many an awe-struck crowd.


And in far lands folk presaged with blanched lips
Disastrous wars, earthquakes, and foundering ships,
    Such whelming floods as never dykes could stem,
Or some proud empire's ruin and eclipse:
    Lo, such a sky, they cried, as burned o'er them
    Once lit the sacking of Jerusalem!

Mathilde Blind (1841 - 1896)


Mathilde Blind was a German immigrant who also wrote under the pseudonym Claude Lake. Her stepfather, Karl Blind was a revolutionary who led the Baden Revolt (1848-1849). A women writer of the late Victorian period, she earned her living in England as a respected poet, biographer, translator and editor. Both of these sonnets are based on the volcanic explosion on the island of Krakatoa in the East Indies in 1883. So much ash and dust was hurled into the air that red sunsets went on for quite some time. Mathidle focuses on the beauty and awe viewed by the allegorical triad of factory workers along with a hint of Revelatory premonition; the "him . . . on Patmos" is Saint John who had a vision of the fall of Rome and the establishment of a New Jerusalem.

Both sonnets are related and can be thought of together in several ways. Blind had a lifelong interest in Biblical scholarship as well as as strong commitment in women's rights and that may be what the in the idea in the stanza "starved . .. by Man's grudging hand." When she died she left her estate to Newnham, the Cambridge women's college to raise the status of women and improve their educational opportunities.

Sources:

Blair, Bob, Untitled:
http://www.geocities.com/~bblair/010321.htm

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:
http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/blind08.html#71

The Richard Vallance Sonnet Review, Sept 2001:
www.poetrylifeandtimes.com/valrevw1.html

CST Approved.

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