Krakatoa After-Glows

Above: Words Interpreted, June 13, 2018

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 – 1889)

“The glow is intense, this is what strikes every one; it has prolonged the daylight, and optically changed the season; it bathes the whole sky, it is mistaken for the reflection of a great fire; at the sundown itself and southwards from that on December 4 [1883], I took a note of it as more like inflamed flesh than the lucid reds of ordinary sunsets… Four colors in particular have been noticeable in these after-glows, and in a fixed order of time and place–orange, lowest and nearest the sundown; above this, and broader green; above this, broader still a variable red, ending in crimson; above this a faint lilac…”

The quote is from a letter by poet Gerard Manley Hopkins to the journal Nature (January 3, 1884), describing the sunset after-glows he witnessed, which were caused by volcanic dust in the atmosphere following the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano in 1883. Hopkins descriptions of color are marvelous.

Listen to Hopkins letter here:
Read the text on-line here:

Many of Hopkins’ poems have been recorded for LibriVox.  You can find them here.  His collected poems are available to read on

From “No worst, there is none,” by GMH

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all 
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.

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