Posted by: Peadar Ban | December 9, 2008

Now Fades All Earthly Splendor

Against the Fall of Night

Now Fades All Earthly Splendor

The other day I stood in the Rectory kitchen  getting supper ready for the two priests.  I cook there five days a week.  It was nearly four o’clock.  The day was already coming to a close; both my work day and actual day..well day *light* anyway.  The kitchen windows face West, and one of my pleasures this time of the year is to watch the sun setting.  I was disappointed by the sunset on that day day, Friday, because the sun had disappeared behind a thick bank of smoky gray clouds, and dark descended, almost but not quite, by about 3:30.

November is that way.  It and March.  I could skip over them for all the pleasure they give me in watching the sky.  There’s only so much to be had looking at what is the meteorological equivalent of a battleship’s flank gliding by.  It only gets worse after the sun goes down.  It makes me wonder, sometimes, about suicide rates during those times; wonder and worry a bit.  Because, frankly, after a few days of it I just want to close my eyes.

But this is December, a whole new way of thinking has, by now, taken over.  It should be, I think sometimes petulantly, evident in everything; most of all in the sky.  The year is, of course, winding down and will, of course, spring anew into another brand new one within weeks.  As the saying goes, “Can Spring be far behind?”

It’s not the weather, however, that has me thinking about the weather, particularly.  I like watching day’s end.  Even as a child I enjoyed the sunset.  I lived in the Bronx, not far from the Hudson River, and just across from the Palisades, that 600 foot wall of granite that marked the river’s western bank for a couple of dozen miles.  On more than one evening I stood watching the sun descend behind it.  Given a few clouds, and the right position, down near the water, up on a hilltop, the beautiful variations of those minutes were, even to a street urchin from the Bronx, breathtaking.  The brilliance of the final moments, the play of color across the clouds, down upon the water’s surface, metallic golds and crimsons, subtle blues and reds, and all the colors in between still capture my attention; even in my memory. I’ve seen my share of beginning’s, too, but I have a fondness for sunsets.

It is why I wait for this time of the year at the kitchen’s west facing windows.   There is another reason for the wait, too.  Behind the Rectory, about a quarter mile away, is the Edgewood Cemetery.  Sheila, my first wife, is buried there.  I will be, too, and so will Mariellen.

I can look out of the window, look down the street behind the rectory and see the tall fence around the cemetery about a quarter mile away.  Directly behind that fence, about another twenty-five yards further in, is Sheila’s grave.  I took the picture above on the day that the sun set directly over the spot.

It reminded me, then, of the hymn whose first line is the title of this piece.  It goes on: “Now fades all earthly splendor,/The shades of night descend;’The dying of the daylight/Foretells creation’s end..”  Those are the first four lines.

Don’t let it end there, one’s mind says, one’s heart exhorts; and it doesn’t, because …”faith gives place to sight/Of Father, Son and Spirit,/One God, in heaven’s light.”

That’s a fine ending, for a hymn, for a day, for a life.

Peadar Ban

December 12, 2008


  1. Hey Peter!

    Look at you……you’ve got a blog!!!!


    Keep postin’.


    • I aim to.

  2. Cyberiffic Peter!
    Another way to enjoy your wonderful writings!

    • You are very welcome.


%d bloggers like this: