Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Southern Cross

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......

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