The Romantic Night

The “night” of “Because the Night” resembles the night as it was seen by poets of the Romantic movement in both its liberating nature and the possibility offered for contemplation and transcendence. Contemplation is just one part of “Because the Night”, but it is important nonetheless. For the Romantic, “night’s poetic and spiritual resources appear boundlessly liberating”. The darkness and seclusion of the night serve as a “prelude to metaphysical rapture and sublime illumination”. The night which had traditionally been linked to notions of “death and oblivion” took on a more positive tone under the Romantics (  although there was still certainly a preoccupation with death and the night under the Romantics, especially Novalis). It was “upon the night’s starred face” that Keats pondered “love and fame” and mortality. This same shadowy space was where Novalis asked ‘What holdest thou under thy mantle, that with hidden power affects my soul?” The lyrics of “Because the Night” owe much to this Romantic rendering of what “the night” could mean. No longer a space to be feared, it became a space where illumination and transcendence were possible. Keats was prompted by the night to recognize the impermanent nature of human existence, to realize that there were “huge cloudy symbols of a high romance “ whose “shadows” he might “ may never live to trace…with the magic hand of chance” . It was within, and as a result of, the impermanence of the night that Keats was able to reflect on the mirrored fleetingness of human love and life. It is this same understanding of impermanence that causes Patti Smith to write “take me now, baby here as I am”. There is a realization here that the night is fleeting and the time for love or physical contact (however you read her demands) is now and not later. This is very Romantic. Night is the space where not only the illumination, but also the opportunity to seize this fleeting moment occurs. Continuing with a purely lyrical analysis, one sees other Romantic influences. When Smith asks pleads with her lover to “come on now try and understand/ the way I feel when I’m in your hands”, she is asking him/her to understand the same “hidden power” that Novalis speaks of in “Hymns to the Night”; whether this is intentional or not is not important. What matters is how the night is represented as a space capable of producing an intensity of feeling (mainly in an intellectual/transcendent context for the Romantics- note Keats as exception to this rule, notably in “Women, Wine and Snuff” and “You say you love”) that simply does not happen during the day . Despite these cautious links between the Romantics and Smith, there exists, on the whole, a lack of connection regarding the body, as well as the aforementioned problematic trend of Romanticism towards an elitist version of modernism.

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One thought on “The Romantic Night

  1. I very much like your ideas about duality in rock music, and your thorough and accurate description of the idea of the Romantic Night. One way I think that these two ideas can be applied to Patti Smith, particularly her song “Because the Night,” relates to your assertion that the feeling and transcendent discovery is derived through the feelings that the music generates, while the lyrics serve to enhance the cognizant discovery of what the musical piece is truly communicating as an entire body of work that exists as a duality of music and lyric. Perhaps under the wrong setting, the effect of the music will not be as powerful, but as Patti Smith communicates in the lyrics of “Because the Night”, under the safegaurd of the romantic night, a listeners mind will freely open itself to the experience that the music is asserting upon its listener.

    -Michael Purgason

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