LUCE 321 - Page 26

Light that invites us on a journey From a short story by Melville, the author of Moby Dick O nly a few years after Moby Dick, a novel considered an all-time masterpiece, was published in 1851, Herman Melville wrote an autobiographic short story, The Piazza, where he ideally summarized his last journey, before taking the modest position as an employee in the New York Customs Office. In the story, Melville, the first-person narrator, is invited on a journey by a radiant spot, a light he contemplates from his piazza-deck, more precisely, “one spot of radiance, where”, the author notes, “all else was shade.” The light that Melville observes has an irresistible charm on him, it stimulates him to set off and reach the high slopes of Mount Greylock in front of his piazza-deck. The attraction of this light is even greater than the call of Homer’s sirens. Much ahead of time, in his short story Melville describes the attractive power of light, and its innovative function of tempting a traveller to go on an adventure, inviting him to discover places, the same way that the illuminated architectures in Pompeii now invite visitors, also at night, to discover the ruins of the Roman city buried under the ashes of Vesuvius many centuries ago. Melville mainly believes in the seduction of light, the charm that radiates from a luminous point, a candle or a golden sparkle. There must be some fairies there around the light, the author thinks, and adds, with the help of his fantasy, there must be “some haunted ring where fairies dance” and, stimulated by the light, he would like to be there “and push away for fairy-land” to meet the light. And even though he does not know how to reach there, Melville does not give up, “it must be voyaged to, and with faith”. Apart from the light, Melville is stimulated by literary culture. He is also attracted towards the high grounds by the story of Titania one Arrowhead, la casa di Melville a Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 1934 / Herman Melville's home, Arrowhead, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 1934 24 LUCE 321 / EPIFANIE DI LUCE of the protagonists of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and in the morning, when the larks sing as in Romeo and Juliet, the author decides to set off to discover the light. The night-time and morning references are extrapolated from the unlimited Shakespearian source, and alongside these Melville also uses strong biblical references to introduce the enigma of points of view. When Melville reaches the source of light that has irresistibly attracted him, and he meets Marianna, immediately he envies her, because she can see from a point of view that is opposite his and his piazza-deck. It is not like a mirror that increases or decreases the value of the landscapes, the two views are not the same, they exist for the observer, even one without the other. Introducing a symmetry in the views, Melville doubles the traveller’s interest in the landscape, in the light that can be seen. However, when the author discovers that his source of light is represented by the sad and solitary Marianna, he is disappointed for not having found the radiant land of fairies, and instead of telling Marianna that he is the owner of the piazza-deck, of the source of light that in turn has en chanted Marianna, at the end of the story Melville skips the fantasy and in view of these facts suggests that the traveller must choose the point of view, the source of light that attracts him, on his own, before setting out on a journey, the walk of life, and not be obsessed by other “real” stories like the one he has narrated from his piazza-deck. 2 – to be continued. For "Epiphanies of Light", LUCE previously published the tale by Empio Malara "Alessandro Manzoni, a Creator of Light" (No.317, September 2016)