A Moonlit Night
Moonlit nights are beautiful all over the world, but in the tropics, they are more frequent, and also more agreeable than in colder climates. They are more frequent, because in the tropics for eight or nine months of the year the moon never wastes its beams on banks of clouds that intercept its light from the earth. They are more agreeable because the climate invites the inhabitants of tropical countries to go out after sunset and enjoy the cool night air, whereas, except at midsummer, the dwellers in cold and temperate climates prefer to take the air at midday, and see little of the moon even on the limited number of the days in the year during which the sky is clear of clouds.
In the sunny south, the mild splendor of the moon is particularly delightful in contrast with the glare of the ardent sun that has been shining all through the day. The restful feeling inspired by the quiet of the night and by the refreshing coolness of the air puts the mind in a proper mood for the enjoyment of the beauty of a moonlight scene. In the daylight some views are beautiful and others are the reverse, but moonlight has the magical power of beautifying whatever it shines upon. In the hot weather of India, the grass is burnt brown, and the bushes and trees pine for want of moisture. When this is the case, the sight of a rural landscape fails to give pleasure to the eye in the sunlight. But look at the same scene in the soft light of the moon, and all is changed. The burnt grass and bushes then lose all trace of their withered condition and under the flood of moonlight look as beautiful as a poet’s dream of fairyland.
The same magical transformation comes over many of the works of man under the influence of the moon. Scott recommends those who would see Melrose at its best to visit its ruins by the moonlight when the buttresses of grey stone seem to be framed alternately of ebony and ivory, and the sculptured images are edged with silver. The same advice is often given to those who contemplate a visit to the Taj Mahal at Agra. But even ordinary buildings look beautiful by the light of the moon, under whose magic spell stucco battlements and whitewashed domes and minarets seem to be made of pure white marble. Forests are beautiful by day, but even more beautiful by night. It is difficult to imagine anything that could more fully satisfy our sense of beauty than a walk in the country-side,
‘When the deep burnished foliage overhead
Splinters the silver arrows of the moon.’
Yet equally beautiful is the spectacle of the moonlit ocean when we see a broad path of silver light stretching before us to the distant horizon, and no sound is heard but the gentle murmur of the advancing and retiring waves.