On the beach at night,Of note: my play is about Jupiter (Zeus) and the Pleiades, and long before I read this poem, I had planned for my play to take place in a summer house on Walt Whitman's native Long Island, with some key scenes occurring "on the beach at night."
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.
Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.
From the beach the child holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.
Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in apparition,
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure,
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall again shine.
Then dearest child mournest thou only for Jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?
Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter
Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.
Also of note: I found two different versions of this poem online, the one above, and a version where the Pleiades are referred to as "delicate brothers" and "radiant brothers." I had heard that Whitman compulsively revised his poems, but never seen such a clear-cut example! It seems that when the poem was originally published in Leaves of Grass in 1871, it was "brothers," but twenty years later, it had changed to "sisters." Did he revise it to make it less shocking/controversial? After all, if the Pleiades are always referred to as the Seven Sisters, it's a gender reversal to portray them as brothers, and a phrase like "delicate brothers" would have served as a big sign-post pointing to Whitman's homosexuality.
Then again, according to another website I found, the Pleiades have always had an association with homosexuality -- I suppose because they are seen as such a strong feminine influence that, when they appear in a man's astrological chart, they signify effeminacy or homosexuality? But I enjoyed this astrologer's positive re-interpretation of the Pleiades (seeing them not as victims, but "divine sisters on a voyage to true individuality and rebellion against social expectations... a reminder to those who would follow in their steps of revolution, promising that all burdens endured would lead to a greater brightness that would withstand the darkness of man's own ignorance") and his discovery of an ancient text that assigned a virtue and a color to each of the seven sisters. One of my challenges while writing Pleiades has been to develop each sister as an individual character -- when the myths don't give them much in the way of individual personality. And I get a kick out of this esoteric astrological stuff.