As BGSU is abuzz with excitement for the total eclipse, we at MAR can’t help but consider how the moon has been reflected in literature, more specifically, poetry.  

The moon has been an object of curiosity since the beginning of time, with many cultures regarding the moon as a symbol of power that holds the essence of life and time, and the ways of the earth in its clutches. Cultures including the Greeks, Egyptians, Mayans, and Chinese worshiped the moon and associated many deities with it. The moon has consistently appeared a female deity due to similarity with the menstrual cycles and its fragile appearance when compared to the flaming power of the sun. 

Thus, with these associations, the moon in literature has been a divine source of female fertility, love, purity, romance, beauty, mystery, madness, and power. The history of the moon’s symbolism, its glowing appearance shrouded in darkness, and its continuous cycle of changing appearances have given writers a lot of freedom to display a variety of emotions and themes. Poets and writers such as Emily Dickenson, Shakespeare, Percy Shelly, Ted Hughes, and more have used ideas behind the moon to express raw emotion, change, and death. 

Eclipses are not as commonly written as the complete focus of a poem of piece of work, yet many poets mention eclipses to once again signify change or the tense relationship between two people or ideas. A beautiful example of these themes expressed in poetry is by the American poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919): 

In that great journey of the stars through space 

About the mighty, all-directing Sun, 

The pallid, faithful Moon, has been the one 

Companion of the earth. Her tender face, 

Pale with the swift, keep purpose of that race, 

Which at Time’s natal hour first begun, 

Shines ever on her lover as they run 

And lights his orbit with her silvery smile. 

Sometimes such passionate love doth in her rise, 

Down from her beaten path she softly slips, 

And with her mantle veils the Sun’s bold eyes, 

Then in the gloaming finds her lover’s lips. 

While far and near the men our world call wise 

See only that the Sun is in eclipse.  

Wilcox here uses her expression of the moon and the eclipse to express intimate love and change. As an activist, Wilcox also makes social commentary within this poem, noting that men at times only can acknowledge the masculine energy that they relate to (the sun), missing the beauty and the effort of the opposite sex (the moon). 

So, as we prepare to celebrate the eclipse, I encourage you as readers and writers to find your own favorite examples of the moon in poetry and ponder how the author uses the moon to carefully craft their narrative. Eclipses are more than just a special phenomenon, but a chance to express so much emotion and power within our own works. 

-Ellie Timmins, Mid-American Review