Star-gazing: A Quotation

“Miss Crawford was standing at an open window with Edmund and Fanny looking out on a twilight scene …. when, being earnestly invited by the Miss Bertrams to join in a glee, she tripped off to the instrument ….

“Fanny … had the pleasure of seeing [Edmund] continue at the window with her, in spite of the expected glee; and of having his eyes soon turned, like hers, towards the scene without, where all that was solemn, and soothing, and lovely, appeared in the brilliancy of an unclouded night, and the contrast of the deep shade of the woods. Fanny spoke her feelings. ‘Here’s harmony!’ said she; ‘here’s repose! Here’s what may leave all painting and all music behind, and what poetry only can attempt to describe! Here’s what may tranquillise every care, and lift the heart to rapture! When I look out on such a night as this, I feel as if there could be neither wickedness nor sorrow in the world; and there certainly would be less of both if the sublimity of Nature were more attended to, and people were carried more out of themselves by contemplating such a scene.’

“‘I like to hear your enthusiasm, Fanny. It is a lovely night, and they are much to be pitied who have not been taught to feel, in some degree, as you do; who have not, at least, been given a taste for Nature in early life. They lose a great deal.’

“‘You taught me to think and feel on the subject, cousin.’

“‘I had a very apt scholar. There’s Arcturus looking very bright.’

“‘Yes, and the Bear. I wish I could see Cassiopeia.’

“‘We must go out on the lawn for that. Should you be afraid?’

“‘Not in the least. It is a great while since we have had any star-gazing.’

“‘Yes; I do not know how it has happened.’ The glee began. ‘We will stay till this is finished, Fanny,’ said he, turning his back on the window; and as it advanced, she had the mortification of seeing him advance too, moving forward by gentle degrees towards the instrument, and when it ceased, he was close by the singers, among the most urgent in requesting to hear the glee again.

“Fanny sighed alone at the window till scolded away by Mrs. Norris’s threats of catching cold.”

(Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, Chapter XI)

_______________________________

Painting: ‘Portrait of a Young Girl’ by Sophie Gengembre Anderson.

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