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From the Archives: Henry Beston Quote on Night

By Natalie Criscione

The early editions of the Coop Scoop contain a wealth of quotes, poetry, and commentary. It is not unusual for the authors to question the values within society that move us in one direction or another. Conservation is encouraged, not only within the Co-op’s policies, but also echoed in the Coop Scoop for the community at large. 

We’d like to share a reprinted quote from the June ’78 edition, from Henry Beston (1888-1968), whose 1928 book The Outermost House describes his year spent on Cape Cod. He was a conservationist whose words remain timely nearly 100 years later, as we still struggle with light pollution and its effects on nature.

“Our fantastic civilization has fallen out of touch with many aspects of nature, and with none more completely than with night. Primitive folk, gathered at a cave mouth round a fire, do not fear night; they fear, rather, the energies and creatures to whom night gives power; we of the age of machines, having delivered ourselves of nocturnal enemies, now have a dislike of night itself. With lights and ever more lights, we drive the holiness and beauty of the night back to the forests and the sea; the little villages, the crossroads even, will have none of it.  Are modern folk, perhaps, afraid of night? Do they fear that vast serenity, the mystery of infinite space, the austerity of stars? Having made themselves at home in a civilization obsessed with power, which explains its whole world in terms of energy, do they fear at night for their dull acquiescence and the pattern of their beliefs? Be the answer what it will, today’s civilization is full of people who have not the slightest notion of the character of the poetry of the night, who have never even seen night. Yet to live thus, to know only artificial night, is as absurd and evil as to know only artificial day.”

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