gathering light – stygian

stygian – dark, gloomy, infernal or hellish

venice_castello_©James Newton Photographs
©James Newton Photographs

We are probably all familiar with the term ‘stygian gloom’ to describe a certain type of darkness. Thick and all consuming, only traces and outlines are visible within. Stygian is of or relating to the river Styx (In Greek mythology, Styx is a deity and a river that forms the boundary between Earth and the Underworld or Hades).

C16: from Latin Stygius, from Greek Stugios, from Stux Styx ; related to stugein to hate.

gathering light – nocturne

nocturne – a gentle piece of classical music/a piece of music especially for the piano that has a soft and somewhat sad melody/a work of art dealing with evening or night.

SW11_Thames-Fog_©James Newton Photographs
©James Newton Photographs

The term ‘Nocturne’ was made famous by the painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler.  The aim of his Nocturnes is to convey a sense of the beauty and tranquility of the Thames by night. These pictures, specifically of the Thames at Battersea are “evocative of the night or subjects as they appear in a veil of light, in twilight, or in the absence of direct light”.

The word ‘nocturne’ was first suggested by Frederick Leyland, since it conveys the sense of a night scene, but also has musical associations. The expression was quickly adopted by Whistler, who later explained, “By using the word ‘nocturne’ I wished to indicate an artistic interest alone, divesting the picture of any outside anecdotal interest which might have been otherwise attached to it. A nocturne is an arrangement of line, form and colour first.”

gathering light – gloaming

gloaming – the part of the day after the sun has gone down and before the sky is completely dark.

267_Landscape_Summer-2230_©James Newton Photographs
©James Newton Photographs

I first heard the phrase ‘the gloaming’ from the Radiohead song of the same name. Like the song, the word has a real sense of foreboding about it, darkness is coming.

It sounds very olde worlde and does indeed come from the middle ages. The roots of the word trace to the Old English word for twilight, “glōm,” which is akin to “glōwan,” an Old English verb meaning “to glow.” In the early 1800s, in Scotland the now-archaic verb gloam, meaning “to become twilight” or “to grow dark” was in use.

“…this is the gloaming.”

gathering light – grimlins

grimlins – the first or last gleams of daylight

267_Landscape_Summer-2215_©James Newton Photographs
©James Newton Photographs

Grimlins is a word I first came across in a book called ‘Outrun’ by Amy Liptrot. Using Orkney Islands dialect in places there is a glossary of terms and definitions to help out us foreigners.  The word grimlins is used to describe the midsummer night sky, which up there means not dark, an eerie light hanging over the landscape, I imagine it as not dissimilar to moonlight from a bright full moon but bluer, a bit spooky.  Other evocative images are conjured up by haar (a sea fog) and lum reekin (chimney smoke).