Bust of John Passmore Edwards

The Autobiography of John Passmore Edwards

Summer Sunsets


The country round about Blackwater was the reverse of picturesque, and was made more so by the many "knacked" or used-up mines which abounded, and which resembled so many small exhausted volcanoes. But what the district lacked in rural beauty was occasionally made up, and more than made up, by cloud scenery, and particularly by sunsets over the sea. Nature, with simple mixtures of light and vapour, produces an infinite variety of sky scenery. At times the clouds over the sea appeared like magnificent mountains bathed in amber or purple; or rainbow-tinted valleys, threaded with silver streams; or forests fringed with fire; or glorified islands floating in an azure sea.

Like a prairie
Left upon the level water,
One lone track and trail of splendour.

Some people worship the rising sun. I should prefer to worship the setting sun, and particularly when he pours his joy-laden benedictions on Cornish coasts, and when I know he will leave behind him a flood of tender twilight, and so intimate with a pale dawn his rising over other lands and seas, and so on and on for ever.
One evening in later years, while admiring an unusually fine sunset over St. Ive's Bay, when sea and sky met in lustrous union, a man with a gun on his shoulder and a dog by his side passed, and I ventured to ask him whether they frequently witnessed such sights. He looked at me somewhat drowsily, and said: "I don't know; I would rather see a good dog-fight." A step from the sublime to the ridiculous! Here was a well-dressed, well-fed Englishman who preferred to see dogs mangle each other, or birds he had shot fall mutilated to the ground, than witness a scene worthy of a seraph's song. But this man, probably without knowing it, carried with him germs of moral ability which might, in favourable circumstances, blossom into beauty and yield more genuine joy than ever was, or ever will be, derived from blood-stained sports. The man and gun incident reminds me of another and different one. On an occasion when an English visitor was sauntering on and admiring a very fine sunset over some Welsh bills, he passed an elderly and poorly-clad woman sitting on a bank quietly enjoying the scene. He spoke to her about its peculiar colouring. After a short pause, she said, in reply: "Yes, some people like to talk about such splendour-I prefer to sit still and soak it in." 4

April 18, 2005
Acknowledgement of contributions and  copyright
© Dean Evans 2003