Eclipse Quotations - Part III

Compiled by David Le Conte

Blue Bar

This collection of quotations concentrates on solar eclipses, but a few referring to lunar eclipses are included. Some are from literary sources, while others are predictions and records. I have avoided scientific reports, preferring to include descriptive accounts. The quotations are in chronological order. Dates are generally in the Julian Calendar until 1582, and in the Gregorian Calendar thereafter. Some links are provided to maps of historic eclipses by Fred Espenak, Goddard Space Flight Center.

The compiler is grateful to those organisations which have given permission to use copyright material for this web page. The compiler grants general permission to use the page for educational purposes, subject to appropriate credit being given. However, users should note that reproduction of some material may require specific copyright clearance.

Additional quotations and comments on this page are welcome, and should be sent to: David Le Conte.

Last updated 6 December 1998, when there were almost 200 quotations. Further quotations, which have been referenced but not quoted, will be added if and when copyright clearance is received.

Because of the volume of material, "Eclipses Quotations" is organized into four web pages:

Eclipse Quotations - Part I

Eclipse Quotations - Part II

Eclipse Quotations - Part III

Eclipse Quotations - Part IV

"The King (James the Conqueror) entered the city of Montpellier on Thursday the 2nd of June of the year 1239; and on the next day, Friday, between midday and the ninth hour, the King writes that the Sun was eclipsed in a way people did not remember ever having seen before, because it was entirely covered by the Moon and the day grew so dark that one could see stars in the sky."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Montpellier, France, of 3 June 1239.
From: Zurita, Anales de la Corona de Aragon.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 400.

"In this same year, namely 1241 from the Incarnation, on the 6th day from the beginning of October, on Sunday, the Sun was again eclipsed and all the air was darkened. There was gresat terror among everyone, just as in that eclipse which happened three years previously, as we have attested above."

Refers to a solar eclipse in Split of 6 October 1241.
From: Thomae Historia Pontificum Salonitanorum et Spalatinorum.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 401.

"At that time the Moon obscured the Sun when it was in the 4th part (degree) of Gemini, at the 3rd hour before midday on the 25th day of May in the year 6775 (AD 1267). It was a total eclipse of about 12 digits or points. Also, such darkness arose over the Earth at the time of mid-eclipse that many stars appeared. No doubt this portended the very great and destructive calamities which were soon to be vented on the Romans by the Turks."

Refers to a solar eclipse in Constantinople of 25 May 1267.
From: Nicephori Gregorae Byzantinae Historiae.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 404.

"Te-yu reign period, 1st year, month VI, day keng-tzu, the first day of the month. The Sun was eclipsed; it was total. The sky and Earth were in darkness. People could not be distinguished within a foot. The chickens and ducks returned to roost. (It lasted) from the hour szu (9-11 h) to the hour wu (11-13 h); then it regained its brightness."

"The Sun was eclipsed; it was total. Stars were seen. The chickens and ducks all returned to roost. In the following year the Sung dynasty was extinguished."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 25 June 1275.
From: Sung-shih.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pages 257 and 258.

"Chiih-yuan reign-period, 29th year, first month, day chia-wu. The sun was eclipsed. A darkness invaded the Sun, which was not totally covered. It was like a golden ring. There were vapours like golden earrings on the left and right and a vapour like a halo completely surrounding it."

Refers to an annular eclipse of 21 January 1292. The halo is caused by ice crystals in the Earth's atmosphere.
From: Yuan-shih .
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 258.

"On the last day of January at the 8th hour of the day at Avignon there was an eclipse of the Sun, and it was eclipsed in an extraordinary manner, and was notably sparkling. There appeared as if at nightfall a single star, a second was the opinion of the crowd. Then a remarkable semicircle was seen and it lasted until past the night hour." .

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 31 January 1310.
From: Ptolomaei Lucensis Hist. eccles..
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 382.

"Never, perhaps, were preparations for battle made under conditions so truly awful. On that very day the Sun suffered a partial eclipse; birds in clouds, the precursors of a storm, flew screaming over the two armies, and the rain fell in torrents, accompanied by incessant thunder and lightning."

Lingard History of England
Refers to the Battle of Creçy, 1346. However, there was no eclipse at that date.

" In this year on 17 September that novelty appeared. The Sun became dark on a Wednesday at about the third hour and it lasted for the space of two hours. Above the Sun and Moon, which were joined together - that is, the Moon was covering the Sun - there appeared a very large star with fiery rays like a torch . . . Many people viewed the rays of the small Sun by reflection in a mirror or in clear water. And the rays of the Sun were so small and so dark, on account of the Moon covering the Sun, that there did not remain unobscured as much as 3 fingers of the Sun. . . Everyone appeared deathly pale."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Perugia, Italy, of 17 September 1354.
From: Memorie di Perugia dall'anno 1351 al 1438
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 421.

" Chih-cheng reign period, 21st year, 4th month, day hsin-szu, the first day of the month. As the Sun was about to sink (i.e. set) suddenly it lost its light. It took the shape of a plantain leaf. The sky was as dark as night and the stars were shining brightly. For a short time (literally: for the duration of a meal)., the sky became bright again. Then in a short time (the light) disappeared once more."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 5 May 1361.
From: Sung-chiang Fu-chih (History of the town of Sung-chiang, south-west of Shanghai).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 259.

"On February 12 at about the 21st or 22nd hour, the Sun was completely obscured and in front of the Sun was placed a black circle like a little wheel. It became as dark as night and the sky revealed the stars. The birds went to roost as they usually do at night. Everyone was feeling ill at ease as a result of this event. It began half an hour before the Sun was covered over. It gradually lost its light even to the hour stated above. . ."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Perugia, Italy, of 12 February 1431.
From: Antonio dei Veghi, Diario dall'anno 1423 al 1491.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 408.

"In (the month of) Jumada al-Ukhra, the astrologers warned that the Sun would be eclipsed, and in Cairo there were callings to the people that they should pray and do good deeds. However, the eclipse did not occur and those who gave the warnings were denounced. Then news arrived from al-Andalus (Islamic Spain) of the occurrence of an eclipse there covering all of the Sun's body except one-eight of it. That was after midday on the 28th of the month."

From: Al-Maqrizi, al-Saluk fi Ma'rifat Duwal al-Muluk.

" In (the month of) Jumada al-Ula it was known that the calendar experts agreed that the Sun was to be eclipsed on the 28th of the month after the Zawal (i.e. after the Sun had crossed the meridian). The Sultan and the people were prepared for it and were watching the Sun until it set but nothing of it had changed at all."

From: Al-'Asqalani, INBA' AL-Ghumr bi 'Bna' al-'Umr.

These two quotations refer to total solar eclipse, expected in Cairo, but visible in Spain, of 12 February 1431.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 446.

"On Wednesday the 28th of Shawwal, the Sun was eclipsed by about two-thirds in the sign of Cancer more than one hour after the afternoon prayer. The eclipse cleared at sunset. During the eclipse there was darkness and some stars appeared. . . . On Friday night the 14th of Dhu I-Qu'da, most of the Moon was eclipsed. It rose eclipsed from the eastern horizon. The eclipse cleared in the time of the nightfall prayer. This is a rarity - the occurrence of a lunar eclipse 15 days after a solar eclipse."

The solar eclipse occurred on 17 June 1433, and the lunar eclipse on 3 July 1433. Such pairs of eclipses are not frequent.
From: al-Maqrizi, Islamic.
Quoted in Encyclopedia Britannica CD 98.

"On the 28th of (the month of) Shawwal, the Sun was eclipsed after the 'Asr (Afternoon) Prayer and continued until the time of sunset. It cleared up after the conclusion of the eclipse prayer, which I led in the Great Mosque. Then the Sun set and we prayed the Maghrib (Sunset) Prayer in the mosque. When the eclipse prayer was concluded, I sent a witness to ascend the minaret of the mosque to see if the Sun had cleared. He returned, saying that it had cleared completely."

Refers to an almost total solar eclipse at Aleppo of 17 June 1433.
From: Al-'Asqalani, Inba' al-Ghumr bi 'Bna al-'Umr.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 446.

"In the year of salvation 1485, in the month of January, according to the ancient custom, the consuls of Augsburg . . . were elected. On the 16th day of March, at the 3rd hour, during meal-time, the Sun was totally eclipsed. This produced such horrid darkness on our horizon for the space of half an hour that stars appeared in the sky. Crazed birds fell from the sky and bleating flocks and fearful herds of oxen unexpectedly began to return from their pastures to their stables."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Augsburg, Germany, of 16 March 1485.
From: Achilli Pirmini Gassari, Annales Augustburgenses.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 408.

"Trick of the Moon's eclipse

When, in February 1504, the Indians refused to suply any more food to the fifty-odd Spaniards marooned in the small bay of Santa Gloria in Jamaica, Columbus conceived of a ploy to trick the Indian caciques. He had aboard the Capitana a copy of Johannes MÜller's Calendarium published in Nuremberg about 1474. It contained predictions of lunar eclipses for many years ahead. It revealed that a full eclipse was due on 29 February 1504 - leap year.

On this day Columbus entertained all the local caciques abroad the Capitana. He addressed them all. He explained that the Spaniards were Christians, that they believed in one God who lived in the Heavens, rewarded the good and punished the bad. His God, he warned them, was about to punish them with pestilence and famine if they did not supply food to the Spaniards.

As a mark of His intent He would display a sign in the sky - a blacking-out of the moon. 'Some feared and other mocked', Thacher reports, then right on cue a dark shadow began to pass over the face of the moon. Abject fear gripped the Indians. They begged Columbus to intercede on their behalf. He retired to his cabin for one hour and fifty minutes, then returned to the caciques. God, he informed them, was prepared to withdraw the threat of punishment so long as they behaved themselves and resumed supplies of food and other necessities to the Christians, and to pardon them, in token of which he would withdraw the shadow of the moon. They all agreed.

As the eclipse cleared the Indians marvelled. 'From that time forward, they always took care to provide what [the Spaniards] had need of.'"

Refers to a lunar eclipse of 29 February 1504.
From: David A Thomas, Christopher Columbus: Master of the Atlantic, André Deutsch Limited, London (1991), page 194. Reprinted with permission of the author.
For a further quotation about this incident see A World Too Vast by Alexander McKee (Souvenir Press, London, 1990).

"At the hour of wu (i.e. between 11 and 13 h) the sun was eclipsed. The sky and Earth became dark in the daytime. All the birds flew about in alarm. The domestic animals went into the forest. At the hour of yu (17-19 h) the light came back."
From: Fu-ning Chou-chih (local history of Fu-ning county).

"At the hour of wu suddenly the Sun was eclipsed; it was total. Stars were seen and it was dark. Objects could not be discerned at arm's length. The domestic animals were alarmed and people were terrified. After one (double-) hour it became light."
From: Chiang-hsi (Jiangsi) province.

Both of these quotations refer to a total solar eclipse of 20 August 1514.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 261.

"There is a tradition that some persons in the north lost their way in the time of this eclipse, and perished in the snow."

Refers to the total solar eclipse of 25 February 1598.
From: Maclaurin, Philosophical Transactions, vol xi, p193, 1737.
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.

"And now the house of York, thrust from the crown
By shameful murder of a guiltless king
And lofty proud encroaching tyranny,
Burns with revenging fire; whose hopeful colours
Advance our half-faced sun, striving to shine,
Under the which is writ 'Invitis nubibus.'
The commons here in Kent are up in arms:
And, to conclude, reproach and beggary
Is crept into the palace of our king.
And all by thee. Away! convey him hence."

William Shakespeare King Henry VI, Part 2, Act 4, Scene 1 (Late 1580s).

"Katherina: "The moon! the sun: it is not moonlight now."
. . .
Katherina: "I know it is the sun that shines so bright."
. . .
Katherina: "Forward, I pray, since we have come so far,
And be it moon, or sun, or what you please:
An if you please to call it a rush-candle,
Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me."
. . .
Petruchio: "Nay, then you lie: it is the blessed sun."

Katherina: "Then, God be bless'd, it is the blessed sun:
But sun it is not, when you say it is not;
And the moon changes even as your mind.
What you will have it named, even that it is;
And so it shall be so for Katharina."
. . .
Katherina: "Pardon, old father, my mistaking eyes,
That have been so bedazzled with the sun
That everything I look on seemeth green:
Now I perceive thou art a reverend father;
Pardon, I pray thee, for my mad mistaking.""

William Shakespeare The Taming of the Shrew, Act 4, Scene 5. (1594)
(Not about eclipses, but nonetheless of relevant interest.)

"Look, as the fair and fiery-pointed sun,
Rushing from forth a cloud, bereaves our sight;
Even so, the curtain drawn, his eyes begun
To wink, being blinded with a greater light:
Whether it is that she reflects so bright,
That dazzleth them, or else some shame supposed;
But blind they are, and keep themselves enclosed."

William Shakespeare The Rape of Lucrece, Stanza 54 (1594)
(Not about eclipses, but nonetheless of some interest.)

"No more be grieved at that which thou hast done:
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authorizing thy trespass with compare,
Myself corrupting, salving thy amiss,
Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are;
For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense -
Thy adverse party is thy advocate -
And 'gainst myself a lawful plea commence:
Such civil war is in my love and hate
That I an accessary needs must be
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me."

William Shakespeare Sonnet 35 XXXV. (Mid-1590s)

"Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assured
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time
My love looks fresh, and death to me subscribes,
Since, spite of him, I'll live in this poor rhyme,
While he insults o'er dull and speechless tribes:
And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants' crests and tombs of brass are spent."

William Shakespeare Sonnet 107 CVII. (Mid-1590s)

"A mote it is to trouble the mind's eye.
In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets:
As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,
Disasters in the sun; and the moist star
Upon whose influence Neptune's empire stands
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse:
And even the like precurse of fierce events,
As harbingers preceding still the fates
And prologue to the omen coming on,
Have heaven and earth together demonstrated
Unto our climatures and countrymen."

William Shakespeare Hamlet, Prince of Denmark Act 1, Scene 1. (1602)

"Yes: 'tis Emilia. By and by. She's dead.
'Tis like she comes to speak of Cassio's death. -
The noise was here. Ha! no more moving?
Still as the grave. Shall she come in? were't good? -
I think she stirs again: - no. What's best to do?
If she come in, she'll sure speak to my wife:
My wife! my wife! what wife? I have no wife.
O insupportable! O heavy hour!
Methinks it should be now a huge eclipse
Of sun and moon, and that the affrighted globe
Should yawn at alteration."

William Shakespeare Othello, The Moor of Venice Act 5, Scene 2. (1604)

"Gloucester: "These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us: though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects: love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide: in cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond cracked 'twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes under the prediction; there's son against father: the king falls from bias of nature; there's father against child. We have seen the best of our time: machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders, follow us disquietly to our graves. Find out this villain, Edmund; it shall lose thee nothing; do it carefully. And the noble and true-hearted Kent banished! his offence, honesty! 'Tis strange."

Edmund: "This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, - often the surfeit of our own behaviour, - we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the dragon's tail; and my nativity was under ursa major; so that it follows, I am rough and lecherous. Tut, I should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing."

[Enter Edgar]

"And pat he comes like the catastrophe of the old comedy: my cue is villanous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o' Bedlam. O, these eclipses do portend these divisions! fa, sol, la, mi."

Edgar: "How now, brother Edmund? What serious contemplation are you in?"

Edmund: "I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other day, what should follow these eclipses."

Edgar: "Do you busy yourself with that?"

Edmund: "I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed unhappily: as of unnaturalness between the child and the parents; death, dearth, dissolutions of ancient amities; divisions in state, menaces and maledictions against king and nobles; needless diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts, nuptial breaches, and I know not what."

Edgar: "How long have you been a sectary astronomical?""

William Shakespeare King Lear Act 1, Scene 2. (1605)

"Wendelin at Forcalquier in Provence saw the whole Sun hidden apart from a very narrow thread towards the north, which ascribed to the illuminated atmosphere."

Refers to a solar eclipse at Forcalquier, France, of 12 October 1605.
From: Riccioli.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 421.

"Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron."

William Shakespeare Macbeth Act 4, Scene 1. (1606)

"It was that fatall and perfidious Bark
Built in th' eclipse, and rigg'd with curses dark,
That sunk so low that sacred head of thine."

John Milton Lycidas, Line 100 (1637)

". . . [ the Sun was reduced to] a very slender crescent of light, the Moon all at once threw herself within the margin of the solar disc with such agility that she seemed to revolve like an upper millstone, affording a pleasant spectacle of rotatory motion."

Dr Wyberg, observing the total solar eclipse of 8 April 1652 at Carrickfergus, Scotland.
(Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.)

". . . the country people tilling, loosed their ploughs. The birds dropped to the ground."

Unattributed account, referring to the total solar eclipse of 8 April 1652.
(Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.)

" . . . Thus far these beyond
Compare of mortal prowess, yet observ‘d
Thir dread Commander : he above the rest
In shape and gesture proudly eminent
Stood like a Towr; his form had yet not lost
All her Original brightness, nor appear‘d
Less then Arch Angel ruind, and th' excess
Of Glory obscur'd : As when the Sun new ris'n
Looks through the Horizontal misty Air
Shorn of his Beams, or from behind the Moon
In dim Eclips, disastrous twilight sheds
On half the Nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes monarchs. Dark'n'd so, yet shon
Above them all th' Arch Angel :"

John Milton Paradise Lost, Book I, lines 587-600 (1667)

"O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark, total Eclipse
Without all hope of day!
O first created Beam, and thou great Word,
Let there be light, and light was over all;
Why am I thus bereav‘d thy prime decree?
The Sun to me is dark
And silent as the Moon,
When she deserts the night
Hid in her vacant, interlunar cave."

John Milton Samson Agonistes (1671)
(The reference is to Samson‘s blindness.)

"He beareth Or, a Sun eclipsed, Sable. If this Colour were not accidental in respect of the eclipse of the Sun, the same should not have been named. The Suns eclipse is occasioned by the Interposition of the Moon, which though it be far less in quantity, yet coming between us and the Body of the Sun, it doth discount the Beams thereof, and debarreth us of the sight of them even as the interposition of our hand, or any other small body, before our eyes, doth debar us from the sight of some greater Mountain. For to think that the Sun doth lose his light by the Eclipse, as doth a Candle being extinct, proceedeth out of meer [sic] rustick ignorance: As the like error is in those who think the Sun loseth his light, or goeth to Bed every night, whereas it doth only remove it self [sic] from our Horizon, to enlighten other Countries situated in other parts of the world. As was well expressed by Secundus the Philosopher, who being demanded by Adrian the Emperour what the Sun was, taking his Table in hand, wrote in this manner; Sol est Coeli oculus, coloris, circuitus, splendor fine ocasu dici ornatus, horarum distributor: It is the eye of Heaven, the circuit of heat, a shining without decay, the days ornament, the hours distributor. The most miraculous Eclipse of the Sun that ever was, happened then when the Sun [sic] of Righteousness, the Son of God, was on the Cross, when all the Earth was so benighted at Noon-Day, that Dionisius Aeropagita a Heathen Athenian, cryed out, Either the World was at an end, or the Maker of it was suffering from some great Agony."

John Guillim A Display of Heraldry (1679)
(Describes a shield displaying the Sun.)

"A few seconds before the sun was all hid, there discovered itself round the moon a luminous ring about a digit, or perhaps a tenth part of the moon‘s diameter, in breadth. It was of a pale whiteness, or rather pearl-colour, seeming to me a little tinged with the colors of the iris, and to be concentric with the moon."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 3 May 1715.
From: Edmund Halley.
Quoted in Popular Astronomy by Newcomb, and in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.
Click here for Fred Espenak's map of this eclipse.

"A little before the annulus was complete, a remarkable point or speck of pale light appeared near the middle part of the Moon's circumference that was not yet come upon the disc of the Sun . . . During the appearance of the annulus the direct light of the Sun was still very considerable, but the places that were shaded from his light appeared gloomy. There was a dusk in the atmosphere, especially towards the north and east. In those chambers which had not their lights westwards the obscurity was considerable. Venus appeared plainly, and continued visible long after the annulus was dissolved, and I am told that other stars were seen by some."

Refers to the total solar eclipse of 1 March 1737.
From: Maclaurin, Philosophical Transactions, vol xi, pp181, 184, 1737.
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.

"In regard to the approaching solar eclipse of Sunday April 1, I think it advisable to remark that, it happening in the time of divine service, it is desired you would insert this caution in your public paper. The eclipse begins soon after 9, the middle a little before 11, the end a little after 12. There will be no total darkness in the very middle, observable in this metropolis, but as people‘s curiosity will not be over with the middle of the eclipse, if the church service be ordered to begin a little before 12, it will properly be morning prayer, and an uniformity preserved in our duty to the Supreme Being, the author of these amazing celestial movements." our duty to the Supreme Being, the author of these amazing celestial movements."

Refers to an annular eclipse of 1 April 1764.
From: The Reverend Q Stukely, Rector of St George's in Kent, in a letter to the Whitehall Evening Post. The diary of the Reverend W Stukely, vol.xx, p 44.
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.

"It will be Eclipse first, the rest nowhere."

Dennis O‘Kelly (at Epsom, 3 May 1769)
(Quoted in The Penguin Dictionary of Quotations by Cohen and Cohen. In UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1, Sheridan Williams says: "One of the world‘s most successful racehorses was born around the time of this [annular eclipse of 1 April 1764] and was named Eclipse. The Eclipse Stakes, named after that horse, are still run today, and the horse of the year awards in the U.S. are called Eclipse Awards after him.")

"Why is it that when all clouds have been driven from the sky and when Phoebus (Apollo) pours his rays onto the Earth and shines triumphantly, when nothing in the air can diminish the force of his fire, why does thick darkness sometimes suddenly cover over the dazzling face of this God of the Day? Why does impatient Night, anticipating the hour of her domain, come in the middle of a fine day and spread her dark veil and allow the astonished eyes of mortals to see only the weak glow of the stars? And why, at the very moment at which she was celebrating her reign in the sky, does Pheobe either retreat into the heart of darkness or show us the sad spectacle of her reddened and bloodied face? These are the phenomena that my Muse undertakes to celebrate and whose causes are explained by my lines.

You also reign over ethereal Olympus, over the cherished Olympus of the nine Sisters, divine Pheobus, reveal to my eyes the secrets of Nature, penetrate my heart with your sacred rays. Whether I am telling mortals how you deprive the Earth of the fire of your rays, or am showing them how you refuse to share them with Phoebe your sister, it is your interest that inspires me, it is you that I am celebrating. may my verses be worthy of the God I am praising.

And you, who are, for me, the most interesting and most beloved of the nine Sisters, you who, despising earthly regions, raise your chariot to the skies and hide your face amid the stars, divine Urania, favourable to my wishes, support and never abandon a poet who is devoted to you.

But rather than to Phoebus and to the learned Sisters, it is to you that I address my wishes. Your genius presides over these learned assemblies, at which the fathers of the sciences and of the arts penetrate the most hidden secrets of nature It is under your auspices that, from the banks of the Thames, they spread light over the vast regions of the Universe. Support with them a mortal who is enriched by their works and by yours. Yes, it is to you above all, illustrious Sages, that my Muse owes the object of its songs. . . .

Anxious to know the different eclipses of the sun and of the moon, to learn of their secret causes, your first concern will be to acquire a perfect knowledge of the celestial region; you will study the position of the stars and their movements.

First, as you contemplate the sky and see the countless stars that a fine night reveals to you, or a languishing Pheobe contracting her luminous disk, or the Sun himself raising himself onto the banks of dawn, do not believe that, like those golden nails that shine attached to our panelling, these various stars are also fixed to the vault of the heavens at the same height. Carried through the void or through a subtle air that is dispersed in the vastness of space, they rise unevenly towards Olympus and leave between themselves and the Earth varying distances.

Those whose trembling light constantly flickers, those whose fine rays only strike our eyes as an extremely sharp line, those stars always present us with the same respective position; a similar appearance always reveals them to be equally far apart: they have therefore been called fixed stars. Placed at immense distances, on the edges of the vast Universe, their height does not allow a single one of them to be analysed by the onlooker. Their fire may well equal, or even go beyond that of Phoebus; but their rays, scattered in the air and worn out by such a long journey, can barely overcome the shadows of the night. If you were to be transported by a bold flight into the loftiest regions of the sky, you would see the sun itself grow gradually smaller and be finally plunged into the darkness of night."

From: Ruggiero Giuseppe Boscovich The Eclipses, 1779. (Poem in six songs, dedicated to His Majesty King Louis XVI of France.)
Reprinted, with permission, from The Sky: Order and Chaos by Jean-Pierre Verdet, copyright Gallimard 1987, English Translation copyright Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, and Harry N Abrams, Inc., New York, 1992.

"With hue like that which some great painter dips
His pencil in the gloom of earthquake and eclipse."

Percy Bysshe Shelley The Revolt of Islam (1818)

"High on her speculative tower
Stood Science waiting for the hour
When Sol was destined to endure
That darkening of his radiant face
Which Superstition strove to chase,
Erewhile, with rites impure."

William Wordsworth The Eclipse of the Sun, 1820

"I was astounded by a tremendous burst of applause from the street below, and at the same moment was electrified at the sight of one of the most brilliant and splendid phenomena that can be imagined, for that instant the dark body of the Moon was suddenly surrounded with a corona, a kind of bright glory. I had anticipated a luminous circle around the Moon during the time of the total obscurity, but I did not expect from any of the accounts of previous eclipses that I had read to witness so magnificent an exhibition as that which took place. Splendid and astonishing, however, this remarkable phenomenon really was, and though it could not fail to call forth the admiration and applause of every beholder, yet I must confess there was at the same time something in its singular and wonderful appearance that was appalling. But the most remarkable circumstance attending the phenomenon was the appearance of three large, protuberances apparently emanating from the circumference of the Moon but evidently forming a portion of the corona."

Refers to the total solar eclipse of 1842.
From: Francis Baily.

"The hour for the beginning of the eclipse approached. Nearly twenty thousand people, with smoked glasses in hand, examined the radiant globe projected on an azure sky. Scarcely had we, armed with our powerful telescopes, begun to perceive a small indentation on the western limb of the sun, when a great cry, a mingling of twenty thousand different cries, informed us that we had anticipated only by some seconds the observation made with the naked eye by twenty thousand unprepared astronomer. A lively curiosity, emulation and a desire not to be forestalled would seem to have given to their natural sight unusual penetration and power. Between this moment and those that preceded by very little the total disappearance of the sun we did not remark in the countenances of many of the spectators anything that deserves to be related. But when the sun, reduced to a narrow thread, commenced to throw on our horizon a much-enfeebled light, a sort of uneasiness took possession of everyone. Each felt the need of communicating his impressions to those who surrounded him: hence a murmuring sound like that of a distant sea after a storm. The noise became louder as the solar crescent was reduced. The crescent at last disappeared, darkness suddenly succeeded the light, and an absolute silence marked this phase of the eclipse so that we clearly heard the pendulum of our astronomical clock. The phenomenon in its magnificence triumphed over the petulance of youth, over the levity that certain men take as a sign of superiority, over the noisy indifference of which soldiers usually make profession. A profound calm reigned in the air; the birds sang no more. After a solemn waiting of about two minutes, transports of joy, frantic applause, saluted with the same accord, the same spontaneity, the reappearance of the first solar rays. A melancholy contemplation, produced by unaccountable feelings, was succeeded by a real and lively satisfaction of which no one thought of checking or moderating the enthusiasm. For the majority of the public the phenomenon was at an end. The other phases of the eclipse had hardly any attentive spectators, apart from devoted to the study of astronomy."

Refers to the total solar eclipse in the south of France, 8 July 1842
From: Camille Flamarion, Popular Astronomy, 1894. The words are those of François Arago.
Reprinted, with permission, from The Sky: Order and Chaos by Jean-Pierre Verdet, copyright Gallimard 1987, English Translation copyright Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, and Harry N Abrams, Inc., New York, 1992.


David Sang, Association for Science Education
Gareth Coleman, Guernsey
Peter Hingley, Royal Astronomical Society

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Eclipse Quotations - Part I

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Eclipse Quotations - Part III

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