THE SUN IN DIFFERENT CULTURES AND MYTHOLOGIES
WHERE DOES THE NAME “SUN” COME FROM?
Throughout human history, the sun’s powerful energy has long assured its role as the undisputed “star” of our solar system. The ancient Greeks personified the sun as a handsome god named Helios. His astronomical pedigree was impeccable: He was the son of the Titan Hyperion and the Titaness Theia. Helios was also the brother of Selene, the goddess of the Moon, and Eos, the goddess of the dawn. Helios daily drove his chariot of the sun, drawn by what the ancient Greek poet Pindar called “fire- breathing horses,” across the sky. Along the way, he delivered sunshine around the world. With the passage of time, Helios became associated with Apollo, the god of light, but most ancient Greeks believed them to be separate gods.
During their empiric reign, the Romans continued to worship several sun gods, but they replaced the Greek word for sun, Helios, with the Latin Sol, a root word that continues to refer to the sun in the present day, such as in the term “solar system.” The most powerful sun god in ancient Rome was Sol Invictus, meaning “Unconquered Sun.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word sun derives from the old Germanic sunne. There exist several variants of the word in other languages, such as zon (Dutch), sunna (Old High German, Gothic, and Old Norse), and sonne and son (Middle German).
Conforming to usage of the Old English sunne, the feminine pronoun continued to be applied to the sun until around the 16th century. At this point, the masculine pronoun was more commonly used but “without necessarily implying personification,” and without any hard or fast rules. (The moon, on the other hand, was typically referred to with the feminine pronoun during this period.) Shakespeare notes in his play The Comedy of Errors (written between 1589 and 1594, but first published in 1623): “When the sunne shines, let foolish gnats make sport, but crepe in crannies when he hides his beames.” (II, ii, 30).
THE SUN IN GREEK AND EGYPTIAN MYTHOLOGY...
...AND THE SUN IN THE BIBLE
Psalm 19:4-6 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
Psalm 113:3 From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!
Genesis 1:16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.
Revelation 12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Revelation 16:8-9 The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.
Revelation 22:5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Ecclesiastes 1:5 The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.
Ecclesiastes 11:7 Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.
Matthew 13:43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Matthew 24:29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Joel 2:31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.
Deuteronomy 4:19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.
Amos 8:9 “And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.
STARING AT THE SUN (1997) by U2
Summer stretching on _____________
Summer dresses pass In the shade of a _____________
Creeps are crawling over me Over me and over you Stuck together with God's _____________
It's going to get stickier too It's been a long hot summer
Let's get undercover Don't try too hard to think
Don't think at all
I'm not the only one
Starin' at the sun Afraid of what you'd find
If you took a look inside
Not just deaf and dumb
Staring at the sun Not the only one Who's happy to go blind
There's an _____________ in your ear If you scratch it won't disappear It's gonna itch and burn and _____________
Do you want to see what the scratching brings?
Waves that leave me out of reach Breaking on your back like a _____________
Will we ever live in _____________? 'Cause those that can't do Often have to And those that can't do Often have to preach To the ones staring at the sun
Afraid of what you'd find If you took a look inside Not just deaf and dumb
Staring at the sun I'm not the only one
Who'd rather go blind
Intransigence is all _____________
_____________ still in town Armour plated suits and ties Daddy just won't say goodbye Referee won't blow the _____________ God is good but will he _____________? I'm nearly great but there's something missing
I left it in the duty free, ah But you never really belonged to me
You're not the only one
Starin' at the sun Afraid of what you'd find If you stepped back inside
I'm not sucking on my thumb I'm staring at the sun I'm not the only one
Who's happy to go blind
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was born November 13, 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland and was the only child of respectable middle-class parents.
As a result of his persistent poor health, Stevenson had a limited formal education. Instead he was typically educated by private tutors and nannies. He is best known for his novels Treasure Island (1881), Kidnapped (1886) and the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886).
In June 1888, accompanied by his family, he set sail for the South Seas. Enchanted with life in the South Seas and convinced he could not endure another winter in Scotland, in January of 1890 Stevenson purchased an estate in Apia, Samoa. The climate of the tropics did wonders for Stevenson’s health and the regular postal service meant he could continue regular correspondence with his publishers. Stevenson lived on his estate, Vailima, in the hills of Apia until his death at age 44 in 1894.
SUMMER SUN (1885)
In this poem, Stevenson describes different aspects of the sun’s character. When the sun travels across the sky every day, it is calm and composed. In summer however, it grows brighter. It enters through the blinds on the windows and warms up the room. Its rays reach every dark and cold corner and warm them. It reaches the dusty attic through the keyhole, and the loft filled with hay by squeezing in through broken tiles. It also shines in all its glory in the garden, reaching even the darkest corners. The sun spreads happiness even when it sets down, painting the sky in beautiful vivid shades of red.
Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven without repose;
And in the blue and glowing days More thick than rain he showers his rays.
Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool, Yet he will find a chink or two To slip his golden fingers through.
The dusty attic spider-clad, He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles,
Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.
Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy's inmost nook.
Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.
Why does the speaker use the expression “wide he goes”?
Why are the blinds closed? What does the Sun do when this happens?
What does the sun do in the dusty attic? Is it welcome there?
Where does the sun shed “a warm and glittering look”?
How does the Sun “please the child”?
Why do you think the sun is called the “gardener of the world”?
What do you think the poet mens by “empty heaven”?
Why are rays described as "thicker than the rain"?
Who will find the chink? Where was he supposed to find a chink?
What are the “golden fingers”?
WALT WHITMAN: GIVE ME THE SPLENDID, SILENT SUN (1865)
Part 1 - Vv 1-19
Give me the splendid silent sun, with all his beams full-dazzling; Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the orchard; Give me a field where the unmow’d grass grows; Give me an arbor, give me the trellis’d grape; Give me fresh corn and wheat—give me serene-moving animals, teaching content; Give me nights perfectly quiet, as on high plateaus west of the Mississippi, and I looking up at the stars; Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers, where I can walk undisturb’d; Give me for marriage a sweet-breath’d woman, of whom I should never tire; Give me a perfect child—give me, away, aside from the noise of the world, a rural, domestic life; Give me to warble spontaneous songs, reliev’d, recluse by myself, for my own ears only; Give me solitude—give me Nature—give me again, O Nature, your primal sanities!
Datemi lo splendido tacito Sole sfolgorante con tutti i suoi raggi; datemi i succulenti frutti dell'autunno, maturi, rossi nei frutteti; datemi un campo dove non mietute crescano alte, fresche erbe; datemi messi e grani, e animali serenamente moventisi e respiranti pace; datemi le notti perfettamente quiete in riva al Mississippi, guardando le placide stelle; datemi un giardino di bei fiori, tutto fragranza quando il sole si leva, dov'io possa passeggiare non disturbato; datemi una donna dall'alito fresco e soave, della quale io non sia stanco mai; e che io n’abbia un perfetto bambino, lontano di qui, lontano dai rumori del mondo! Oh sì, una rurale domestica vita! E datemi di mormorare spontanei canti, solo, a modo mio, unicamente per i miei orecchi; datemi la solitudine, la Natura, e le sue salubrità primitive!
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-1547) invented the English sonnet form, adapting the Italian form and rhyme scheme to create the blueprint that Shakespeare, among many others, would later use.
SET ME WHEREAS THE SUN DOTH PARCH THE GREEN
Set me whereas the sun doth parch the green
Or where his beams may not dissolve the ice;
In temperate heat where he is felt and seen;
With proud people, in presence sad and wise;
Set me in base, or yet in high degree, In long night or in the shortest day, In clear weather or where mists thickest be,
In lost youth, or when my hairs are grey.
Set me in heaven, in earth, or else in hell;
In hill, or dale, or in the foaming flood;
Thrall or at large, alive whereso I dwell,
Sick or in health, in evil fame or good: Hers will I be, and only with this thought
Content myself although my chance be nought.
In this sonnet, Surrey adapts an Italian poem written by Petrarch, and essentially says, “Put me wherever you like, in the warmest sun, in youth or in old age, in earth, heaven, or hell, but I’ll still love you the same”.
Sonetto XCV - Il Canzoniere (XIV secolo)
PONMI OVE ‘L SOL OCCIDE I FIORI E L’ERBA
Ponmi ove ’l Sol occide i fiori e l’erba,
O dove vince lui ’l ghiaccio e la neve;
Ponmi ov’è ’l carro suo temprato e leve,
Ed ov’è chi cel rende o chi cel serba;
Ponmi in umil fortuna od in superba, Al dolce aere sereno, al fosco e greve;
Ponmi a la notte, al dì lungo ed al breve,
A la matura etate od a l’acerba;
Ponm’in cielo od in terra od in abisso,
In alto poggio, in valle ima e palustre,
Libero spirto od a’ suoi membri affisso;
Ponmi con fama oscura o con illustre:
Sarò qual fui, vivrò com’io son visso,
Continüando il mio sospir trilustre.
AROUND THE SUN (2004) BY R.E.M.
I want the sun to __________ on me I want the____________ to set me free I wish the ____________ would lead With a voice so strong it could knock me to my ____________
Hold on world 'cause you don't know what's ____________
Hold on world 'cause I'm not ____________ off Hold onto this boy a little longer Take another ____________ around the sun
If I jumped into the ____________ to believe If I climbed a ____________ would I have to reach?
Do I even dare to speak? To ____________? Believe?
Give me a voice so strong I can question what I have ____________
Around the sun Around the sun Around the sun Let my dreams set me free Believe, believe Now now now now now now
Riccardo Zambon, 28 October 2023