Let us quit the leafy arbour,
And the torrent murmuring by;
For the sun is his harbour,
Weary of the open sky.

Evening now unbinds the fetters
Fashioned by the glowing light;
All that breathe are thankful debtors
To the harbinger of night.

Yet by some grave thoughts attended
Eve renewed her calm career;
For the day that now is ended
Is the longest of the year.

Dora! sport, as now thou sportest,
On this platform, light and free;
Take they bliss, while longest, shortest,
Are indifferent to thee!

The Longest Day – William Wordsworth 1770 -1850

So once again we reach the longest day of the year, the planet by its peregrinations through the universe, held fast by the gravity of the sun, revolves but at an angle thus giving us the solstice in our part of this northern hemisphere, the opposite being true in the south.

Once held as a sacred day when the sun was the centre of life and life revolved around the seasons this day still holds an almost magical aspect in our lives. This event is not one from which we can escape and yet, would wish to. As in an imposed routine this cycle of light and darkness, of lengthening and shortening days allows us to participate in the cycle of life, the cycle of the earth.

Many playwrights and authors have pondered the idea of midsummer, the most well known being the wonderful, rather hapless love story played out amidst the lives of aristocratic and common folk with a sprinkling of fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Who can ever forget the sight of the poor Bottom who, with his fried are planning a small entertainment to amuse the great folk. The naughty fairies playing their game and, under the stars of that short night change the man in front of his friends.

Snout. O Bottom, thou art changed! what do I see on thee?
Bottom. What do you see? you see an ass-head of your own do you?
Quince. Bless thee, Bottom! bless thee! thou art translated

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare (Act III Scene I 121)

One of those lines in theatre that everyone knows and remembers fondly when they have seen the play. This is the shortest night of the year and the action must take place rapidly but that does not mean there cannot be a jest and, finally a marriage and a blessing, that naughty imp Puck hoping that we will forgive.

The sighs we are used to seeing, druids gathering at Stonehenge to watch the sunrise, midsummer revels in the long evening (perhaps not this year), the brief night giving way to the second half of the year whilst the earth keeps on revolving. Midsummer’s Day is indeed a day to rejoice in and the night, one to revel and think of those wonderful visions conjured up by poet and playwright.

Golden Snapdragons

Too quick despairer, wherefore wilt thou go?
Soon with the high Midsummer pomps come on,
soon will the musk carnations break and swell,
Soon shall we have gold-dusted snapdragon,
Sweet William with his holey cottage smell
And stocks in fragrant blow

Matthew Arnold 1865 – Thyrsis