Themes :

Although mystics often experience the Divine as a radiant, all permeating light, sometimes God is described in terms of night or darkness.

Night is the great Mystery, the unknown. Darkness is the place of secrets. It is the time of sleep, rest, peace. We drop all of our activities and turn inward.

In many traditions, darkness is especially associated with the Goddess, the feminine aspect of the Divine. The black-skinned Hindu goddess Kali is one of the more striking embodiments of Night as a face of the Divine.

Because nighttime is associated with sleep and, by analogy, death, it can also represent the time when the ego sleeps and most easily can "die" or fade away. The ego is less in charge at night, less demanding that its every desire be instantly met. The busy mind is less active, more likely to be at rest.

Night is the time when lovers meet, when the soul meets its Divine Beloved.

Darkness, like God, envelops everything in its embrace. It is in the darkness of night that all things become one, losing their individuality as they disappear into that mystery. Nighttime is the time of nondual awareness, when dichotomies and artificial notions of separation fade.

In Sufi poetry, nighttime has an added dimension in that many Sufis engage in a special midnight prayer (in addition to the traditional five Muslim prayer times) or gather for all night recitation of the names of God (zikr). Because of this, the night is eagerly anticipated as the holiest of times for many devout Sufis. Abu Madyan (d. 1198), a famous Sufi saint from North Africa, wrote of the late night prayer:

"They call for darkness during the day, just as the compassionate shepherd calls his flock, and they yearn for sunset, just as a bird yearns for its nest at sunset. When night falls, when darkness overcomes, when the bedcovers are spread out, when the family is at rest, and when every lover is left alone with his beloved -- then they arise, pointing their feet towards Me, turning their faces to Me, and speak intimate words, adoring Me by virtue of My grace..."
(Quoted from The Shambhala Guide to Sufism, by Carl W. Ernst, PhD)

Christian mystics, particularly St. John of the Cross, speak of "the dark night of the soul." This is not so much a reference to the experience of the Divine as mentioned above, but a preliminary state. Prior to experiences of union, the soul loses its orientation, where worldly distractions seem pointless, but the blissful fulfilment of divine union hasn't yet been experienced. This can be a period of confusion, of intense spiritual thirst, and a feeling of blindness that is the equivalent of trying to find one's way in the dark. But that too can be an important stage of the journey that indicates the nearness of the sacred goal, not its distance.

Poems with the theme of Night

  Abil-Kheir, Abu-Said Nothing but burning sobs and tears tonight
  Abil-Kheir, Abu-Said Rise early at dawn, when our storytelling begins
  Abil-Kheir, Abu-Said "This is My Face," said the Beloved
  Abulafia, Rabbi Abraham And YHVH spoke to me when I saw His name
  AE (Russell, George William) The Hermit
  Akhmatova, Anna Why then do we not despair?
  Akhmatova, Anna Everything is plundered, betrayed, sold
  Allama Prabhu Light
  Ammons, A. R. Rapids
  Anandamurti (Sarkar, Prabhat Ranjan) Oh Lord, what shall I say to You?
  Anandamurti (Sarkar, Prabhat Ranjan) Oh unknown traveler, you come alone
  Andal The full moon day of Margazhi is here (from Tiruppavai)
  Angelou, Maya A Brave and Startling Truth
  Angelou, Maya Alone
  Angelou, Maya Million Man March Poem
  Arabi, Muhyiddin ibn As Night Let its Curtains Down in Folds
  Attar, Farid ud-Din The moths and the flame
  Attar, Farid ud-Din Invocation
  Attar, Farid ud-Din God Speaks to David
  Attar, Farid ud-Din The Vain Bird
  Attar, Farid ud-Din All who, reflecting as reflected see
  Attar, Farid ud-Din The Eternal Mirror
  Avaiyar Vinayagar Agaval
  Bahu, Sultan I knew God well when love flashed before me
  Basho, Matsuo Dewdrop, let me cleanse
  Berry, Wendell The Peace of Wild Things
  Berry, Wendell The Wish to Be Generous
  Berry, Wendell To Know the Dark
  Blake, William Auguries of Innocence
  Blake, William Awake! awake O sleeper of the land of shadows (from Jerusalem)
  Blake, William Hear the voice of the Bard!
  Blake, William Of the Sleep of Ulro! and of the passage through (from Jerusalem)
  Blake, William Trembling I sit day and night (from Jerusalem)
  Boethius The Mists Dispelled
  Boethius The Soul's Flight
  Brabazon, Francis Dawn is a Friend
  Brabazon, Francis We have waited all night for you, and now the dawn is come
  Broughton, James Quit your addiction
  Broughton, James The Bliss of With
  Bulleh Shah The preacher and the torch bearer
  Carpenter, Edward The sun shines, as of old
  Chikako, Jusammi On this summer night
  Ching-Yuen, Loy To know Tao
  Coleridge, Samuel Taylor What is Life?
  Colliver, Andrew A Day of Light
  Colliver, Andrew Good Medicine
  Colliver, Andrew Nocturne
  Crashaw, Richard To the Name above every Name, the Name of Jesus
  cummings, e. e. now does our world descend
  Dickinson, Emily I see thee better -- in the Dark
  Dickinson, Emily The Loneliness One dare not sound
  Dickinson, Emily It was a quiet way
  Dionysius the Areopagite Lead us up beyond light
  Eliot, T. S. I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you (from Four Quartets)
  Eliot, T. S. Not the intense moment (from The Four Quartets)
  Emre, Yunus The lover is outcast and idle
  Emre, Yunus We entered the house of realization
  Farid, Baba Sheikh Raga Asa
  Fox, John Blown Home
  Fox, John When Jewels Sing
  Francis of Assisi The Canticle of Brother Sun
  Ghalib, Mirza These divine verses
  Gibran, Kahlil Good and Evil
  Gibran, Kahlil Prayer
  Giraut de Bornelh Reis glorios / Glorious king
  Granger, Ivan M. Empty Dawn
  Granger, Ivan M. Adi Atman 9: you you
  Gyatso, Chone Lama Lodro A Dance of Unwavering Devotion
  ha Nagid, Samuel Answer Me
  ha Nagid, Samuel Gazing Through the Night
  ha Nagid, Samuel On Fleeing His City
  Hafiz It Is Time to Wake Up!
  Hafiz Sun Rays
  Hafiz (Ladinsky, Daniel) A Crystal Rim
  Hakuin Hakuin's Song of Zazen
  Hakuin Past, present, future: unattainable
  Hallaj, Mansur al- You live inside my heart; in there are secrets about You
  Hallaj, Mansur al- You Went Away but Remained in Me
  Hao-jan, Meng A Night on the River
  Hayati, Bibi Is it the night of power
  Hirshfield, Jane The Weighing
  Holderlin, Friedrich Remembrance
  Holderlin, Friedrich Bread and Wine, Part 7
  Holmes, Dick You Have Me
  Ibn al-Farid, Umar I sought her from myself (from The Poem of the Sufi Way)
  ibn Gabirol, Solomon Rise and open the door that is shut
  Ikkyu (Sojun, Ikkyu) A Fisherman
  Ikkyu (Sojun, Ikkyu) I Hate Incense
  Ikkyu (Sojun, Ikkyu) inside the koan clear mind
  Iqbal, Allama Muhammad O wave! Plunge headlong into the dark seas (from Baal-i-Jibreel)
  Iraqi, Fakhruddin By day I praised You
  Iraqi, Fakhruddin Love the phoenix cannot be trapped
  Islam, Nazrul Come silently like the Moon
  Jacopone da Todi (Benedetti, Jacopone) Love, infusing with light all who share Your splendor (from In Praise of Divine Love)
  Jayadeva You rest on the circle of Sri's breast (from The Gitagovinda)
  Jeffers, Robinson Rock and Hawk
  Jnaneshwar The Refutation of Knowledge (from Amritanubhav)
  Jnaneshwar The Union of Shiva and Shakti (from Amritanubhav)
  John of the Cross Dark Night
  John of the Cross I Came Into the Unknown
  John of the Cross Love's Living Flame
  John of the Cross Song of the Soul That Delights in Knowing God by Faith
  John of the Cross Without a Place and With a Place
  Kabir The light of the sun, the moon, and the stars shines bright
  Kalidas (Edwards, Lawrence) The Mind Like a Firefly
  Kerouac, Jack The Scripture of the Golden Eternity
  Khayyam, Omar [1] AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
  Khayyam, Omar [16] Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai
  Khayyam, Omar [24] Alike for those who for To-day prepare
  Khayyam, Omar [52 - later edition] But that is but a Tent wherein may rest
  Khunrath, Heinrich A Philosophicall short songe of the incorporating of the Spirit of the Lord in Salt
  Khusrow Dehlawi, Amir Last Night
  Ko Un Arrows
  Ko Un Indangsu sea, shine dark blue
  Krishnamurti, Jiddu Ah, Come Sit Beside Me
  Krishnamurti, Jiddu I have no name (from The Song of Life)
  Krishnamurti, Jiddu Song of the Beloved (from The Immortal Friend)
  Lalan How the days drag
  Lalla At the end of a crazy-moon night
  Lalla I trapped my breath in the bellows of my throat
  Latif Bhitai, Shah Abdul If you are seeking Allah
  Lawrence, D. H. And Oh--That The Man I Am Might Cease To Be--
  Lawrence, D. H. Dolor of Autumn
  Lawrence, D. H. God is Born
  Lee, Li-Young Nativity
  Lee, Li-Young Night Mirror
  Leon, Luis de The Life Removed
  Levertov, Denise Making Peace
  Li Bai In the Quiet Night
  Li Bai To Tu Fu from Shantang
  Li Bai Visit to the Cold Clear Spring
  Llull, Ramon January (from The Book of the Lover and Beloved)
  Luria, Isaac A Poem for the Small Face
  Machado, Antonio Songs
  Machado, Antonio The Waterwheel
  Maghribi, Muhammad Shirin Each Way I Turned
  Maghsoud, Moulana Shah Turn the darkness of heart by the elixir of the people of the secret
  Maharshi, Ramana The Marital Garland of Letters
  Maharshi, Ramana The Necklet of Nine Gems
  McCombs, Chris Roos O Shab
  Merton, Thomas A Practical Program for Monks
  Merton, Thomas A Psalm
  Merton, Thomas Aubade -- The City
  Merton, Thomas Night-Flowering Cactus
  Merton, Thomas Song for Nobody
  Merton, Thomas The Sowing of Meanings
  Merwin, W. S. Finding a Teacher
  Merwin, W. S. Thanks
  Meshullam da Piera Song at Dawn
  Milarepa The Song of Food and Dwelling
  Mipham Rinpoche, Sakyong Night in Kalapa
  Mirabai All I Was Doing Was Breathing
  Mirabai Dark Friend, what can I say?
  Mirabai Friend, without that Dark raptor
  Mirabai I am true to my Lord
  Mirabai It's True I Went to the Market
  Mirabai No one knows my invisible life
  Mirabai O I saw witchcraft tonight
  Mirabai The Dagger
  Mirabai The Five-Coloured Garment
  Mirabai Unbreakable, O Lord
  Mirabai Why Mira Can't Come Back to Her Old House
  Misri, Niyazi Now No Trace Remains
  Mueller, Lisel In Passing
  Mueller, Lisel Monet Refuses the Operation
  Mueller, Lisel Why I Need the Birds
  Muktabai Where darkness is gone I live
  Nammalvar My dark one
  Nammalvar While I was waiting eagerly for him
  Navajo (Anonymous) Navajo Prayer - May it be beautiful
  Nawaz, Gharib The Second Jesus
  Neruda, Pablo I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz
  Neruda, Pablo Past
  Novalis Uplifted is the stone
  Novalis When Geometric Diagrams...
  Nurbakhsh, Javad Surrender
  O'Donohue, John A Morning Offering
  O'Donohue, John For Light
  O'Donohue, John For the Unknown Self
  O'Donohue, John In Praise of the Earth
  O'Donohue, John May the light of your soul guide you
  O'Donohue, John On the death of the Beloved
  Oliver, Mary Can You Imagine?
  Oliver, Mary Five A.M. in the Pinewoods
  Oliver, Mary Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?
  Oliver, Mary Morning Poem
  Oliver, Mary Spring
  Oliver, Mary The Gift
  Oliver, Mary This World
  Oliver, Mary What is There Beyond Knowing?
  Oliver, Mary Yes! No!
  P'ang Yun (Layman P'ang) No-greed surpasses charity
  Plunkett, Joseph Mary I Saw the Sun at Midnight
  Po Chu-i Staying at Bamboo Lodge
  Pope, Alexander The Universal Prayer
  Porete, Marguerite Humility
  Rabia al-Basri (Adawiyya, Rabia al-) O God, Another Night is passing away
  Rahman Baba Soul Train
  Rahman Baba Sow Flowers
  Ramakrishna Is there anyone in the universe
  Ramprasad (Sen, Ramprasad) Conquer Death with the drumbeat Ma! Ma! Ma!
  Ramprasad (Sen, Ramprasad) Meditate on Kali! Why be anxious?
  Ramprasad (Sen, Ramprasad) Once for all, this time
  Ramprasad (Sen, Ramprasad) So I say: Mind, don't you sleep
  Ramsay, Jay Blessed Unrest
  Ramsay, Jay In the Aber Valley
  Rilke, Rainer Maria As once the winged energy of delight
  Rilke, Rainer Maria Sunset
  Rilke, Rainer Maria The Second Elegy (from The Duino Elegies)
  Rilke, Rainer Maria We are the driving ones
  Roethke, Theodore In a Dark Time
  Roethke, Theodore The Right Thing
  Rosenstock, Gabriel I carved a wind-harp (from Uttering Her Name)
  Rosenstock, Gabriel the grace showered on me (from Uttering Her Name)
  Rosenstock, Gabriel why was the veil rent (from Uttering Her Name)
  Rosenstock, Gabriel (1) You are in me (from Year of the Goddess)
  Rosenstock, Gabriel (2) From each and every pore (from Year of the Goddess)
  Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin At night we fall into each other with such grace
  Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin By the God who was in pre-eternity living and moving and omnipotent, everlasting
  Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin During the day I was singing with you
  Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin Like This
  Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin On the Night of Creation I was awake
  Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin The real work belongs to someone who desires God
  Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin This love sacrifices all souls, however wise, however "awakened"
  Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin This moment
  Sanai, Hakim The Good Darkness
  Saraha The Royal Song of Saraha (Dohakosa)
  Sarmad Companion
  Shabkar (Rangdrol, Shabkar Tsogdruk) A Song by a Yogi in Solitude
  Shih Shu "nothing to do; nothing to lose"
  Shih-te (Pickup) Behold the glow of the moon
  silent lotus Our Remains
  Singh, Darshan In what state was I
  Snyder, Gary At Tower Peak
  Snyder, Gary On Top
  Snyder, Gary Regarding Wave
  Solovyov, Vladimir Three Meetings
  Soseki, Muso Buddha's Satori
  Soseki, Muso Hui-neng's Pond
  Soseki, Muso Incomparable Verse Valley
  Soseki, Muso Toki-no-Ge (Satori Poem)
  Stein, Edith Novena Of The Holy Spirit
  Stevens, Wallace The house was quiet and the world was calm
  Sun Buer Spirit and energy should be clear as the night air
  Surdas Krishna Awakes
  Swir, Anna There is a Light in Me
  Symeon the New Theologian How are You at once the source of fire
  Symeon the New Theologian In the midst of that night, in my darkness
  Szymborska, Wislawa A Contribution to Statistics
  Szymborska, Wislawa Among the Multitudes
  Szymborska, Wislawa I'm Working on the World
  Szymborska, Wislawa Miracle Fair
  T'ao Ch'ien Unsettled, a bird lost from the flock
  Tagore, Rabindranath Accept me, my lord, accept me for this while
  Tagore, Rabindranath He's there among the scented trees (from The Lover of God)
  Tagore, Rabindranath Listen, can you hear it? (from The Lover of God)
  Tagore, Rabindranath (38) I want thee, only thee (from Gitanjali)
  Tagore, Rabindranath (84) It is the pang of separation that spreads throughout the world (from Gitanjali)
  Tagore, Rabindranath (103) In one salutation to thee, my God (from Gitanjali)
  Taliesin Taliesin's Song of his Origins
  Teasdale, Sara Oh You Are Coming
  Teasdale, Sara The Fountain
  Teasdale, Sara Two Songs for Solitude
  Tennyson, Alfred The Higher Pantheism
  Teresa of Avila In the Hands of God
  Thayumanavar Prayer to Being - Let Us Contemplate
  Thayumanavar What is it, which is
  Therese of Lisieux My Song for Today
  Thomas, R. S. Threshold
  Thomas, R. S. Via Negativa
  Tilopa Song of the Mahamudra (Tilopa's Song to Naropa)
  Tolkien, J. R. R. EŠrendil the Mariner
  Tolkien, J. R. R. One Ring
  Tolkien, J. R. R. Sam's Song of Strength
  Tu Fu Moon, Rain, Riverbank
  Tu Fu Visiting the Monastery at Lung-men
  Tulsi Sahib Glimpse of the Invisible
  Tulsi Sahib The Rainy Season
  Tung-Shan (Tozan) Verses on the Five Ranks
  Ungar, Lynn Passover
  Vaughan, Henry The Morning Watch
  Vaughan, Henry The Night
  Vaughan, Henry Vanity of Spirit
  Vidyapati The moon has shone upon me
  Vivekananda In dense darkness, O Mother
  Vivekananda Kali the Mother
  Vivekananda Song of the Sanyasin
  Walters, Dorothy Hymn to the Nameless One
  Walters, Dorothy Ruined by Your Beauty
  Walters, Dorothy Still Life
  Walters, Dorothy They Speak
  Walters, Dorothy Whoever Went In
  Wei, Wang Living in the Mountain on an Autumn Night
  Wei, Wang Stone Gate Temple in the Blue Field Mountains
  Whitman, Walt I think I could turn and live with animals
  Whitman, Walt [2] Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes (from Song of Myself)
  Whitman, Walt [6] A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands (from Song of Myself)
  Wordsworth, William Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows (from The Prelude, Book 1)
  Wordsworth, William "If the dear faculty of sight should fail (from The Excursion, Book 4)
  Wordsworth, William Visionary power (from The Prelude, Book 5)
  Yannai Hymn from the Heavens
  Yeats, William Butler Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
  Yeats, William Butler Crazy Jane and God
  Yeats, William Butler The Blessed
  Yeats, William Butler The Lake Isle of Innisfree
  Yogananda, Paramahansa OM
  Yogananda, Paramahansa Samadhi
  Yogananda, Paramahansa Thy light transfigures all creation
  Yun-k'an Tzu done with the world
  Yun, Hsu Mirror Pond on Mount Taibo in Shanxi