Tuesday, 24 July 2012
Crux is the smallest of the 88 modern constellations, but is one of the most distinctive. Its name is Latin for cross, and it is dominated by a cross-shaped asterism that is commonly known as the Southern Cross. Read more on Wikipedia
Lowry refers to the asterism in a letter to John Davenport dated 27th October 1930; "The crew sleep the deep sea sleep while the ship somnambulates under the Southern Cross" (Collected Letters Volume 1 Pg. 74); the image of the asterism emerges in the La Mordida; Sigbjorn and Primrose rise in the morning; "thye still couldn't find the Southern Cross" (Pg. 86); "still crashing into the seas at 4 a.m.: the Southern Cross appeared tilted in the sky, as if an invisible priest were holding it to ward off evil:" (Pg. 124); "see ship is still crashing into the seas, see the Southern Cross — the other had (UBC 13:23, 207} been merely The False Cross — the Southern Cross appeared tilted in the sky as if an invisible priest were holding it to ward off evil." (Pg. 155); "Sigbjorn hunts for the Southern Cross - he has an idea if he can find it he will go back and get Primrose out of bed and this will make her happy." (Pg. 171); "He puts on his bathing trunks goes up to try and find the Southern Cross." (Pg. 205); and "it should be pointed out that Primrose is disappointed that she never saw the Southern Cross." (Pg. 319). The asterism also appears in the poem 'The Ship'; "Crucified, beneath the wild Southern Cross.(Collected Poetry Pg. 212). The asterism occurs in Dark as the Grave wherein my friend is laid; "And soon we'll see the Southern Cross (Pg. 20); but his thoughts now passed tenderly to Primrose, so disappointed because she had not yet seen the Southern Cross." (Pg. 261).
Sherrill Grace has identified the cross as a major symbol in Lowry's work ( The Voyage That Never Ends Pg. 72. The Southern Cross is a heavenly manifestation of that symbol. Grace notes in Collected Letters Volume 1 that "Lowry's listing of constellations and stars is characteristic of Eberhart's A Bravery of Earth, but Lowry has deliberately exaggerated the effect". ((Pg. 76) - though it must be noted that Eberhart only specifically refers to the South Cross constellation in his poem;
The south-west wet monsoon blows
Off the coast of Africa
All day: and the nights are still.
Night birds, like whippoorwills,
Or owls, flutter about the deck
In the uncertain light before dawn,
And the coming sun slowly tinges
The slate-coloured sky. And they grope
From the limbs of the Southern Cross
To perch on the gloomy ship......