The Starry Night

By Sunil Sharma

The Starry Night

Forced by the power cut,

Suburbanite went up

To his deserted terrace;

Was hit by the immensity

Of the starry night,

Felt overwhelmed by

The primeval beauty

Spread out,

The breath-taking magnificence

Of the swirling night sky

Stretched taut overhead

The eternal space

That glowed with twinkling silver bulbs,

And beckoned the little child gaping

At this rapturous sight, along with his mesmerised dad,

The huge moon and the pale-white light

Washed the blue of the vast sky and produced

Strange lights that streamed down on a French village,

In a different era, when things were more quiet,

The darkness mild and the well-lit sky

Was an enthralling discovery by Vincent van Gogh,

Who had painted and immortalised this ethereal spectacle,

Through his Starry Night over the Rhone and The Starry Night,

The poetic painter, committed to sanatorium,

Suffering from delirium and what not,

Studied the curious effect of darkness and light,

The two paintings still transmit

The same sense of first-time wonder and delight

To the subsequent viewers, living in polluted cities,

Breathing fumes and pure carbon dioxide;

As the cold wind of November buffets the

 Father-son duo that stood silent,

Before gods of yore, now not recognised,

The two felt standing in a pagan shrine,

Found accidentally,

 In the heart of a commercial city,


Overawed by this rare divine sight,

Stared at the infinity and felt their own

Small size,

They then understood that

There exists a unique mysterious realm

Beyond the sodium vapour lamps,

For centuries,

That has been trying again

 To communicate

With humankind but in vain,

This rich world that was once deeply understood and captured

By the likes of Gogh and Wordsworth,

Now lost forever for the ever competing,






Homo Economicus.


The lofty view from the barred window

May 1889. Saint-Paul Asylum

Through the east-facing iron-barred

Window of the second-floor bedroom,

The familiar sky grew into a revelation

That electrified a young inmate fighting

His own private demons;

The ether got suffused with luminosity

And the stars and the moon orbited

 In swirls very bright;

The other side of a mundane sky!

The vision uplifted the gloomy mood

Of a self-mutilated and starved artist, and,

The scene was painted and preserved as the iconic Starry Night.

That canvas still alive, despite the intervening time

And is part of a marvellous series and it

Forms a luminous summit of

World culture, easily recognized;

The sky was always there for those living

In the Saint-Remy-de-Provence and

Still there stretched out for other mortals in the world,

Yet its mystery, its spiritual dimension could only be

Captured by someone considered nuts

By the rest of the proper and the civilized,

What arbitrary cultural and social categories

To imprison and destroy tender creative minds!

Vincent van Gogh could see vividly the other side of the

Brilliant star-studded sky, and, the

Essence of the grim reality of his time and

Could easily locate its soul pristine in meadows

Sunflowers and the sky.

Asylum walls could not restrain his soaring spirit

And he drew furiously through his inner eye.


Madness was never so lucid

So receptive to the beauty innate

In things ugly/ordinary!


Like the famous Don Quixote and the cat in the Wonderland,

Dear Vincent—and rest of us through the Dutch artist—can

See things only the crazy can see

Yes, the other side,

That the sane and practical always dislike!


Nightly visions granted to the blessed!

When night suddenly becomes

A brilliant image inspires

An inmate that went by the name


And begets brilliant visions

Of heavenly bodies and playful

 Mix of colours— light-n-dark

And restive hands, in creative

Frenzy, caught on an oil canvas

Delighting by now

Millions of lonely hearts

Trapped in hopeless situations


To-night, the same sky

Looks similarly beautiful

As it was for those red eyes

In the year 1889


The dim space, a-wash

Stars redeeming the dark

And the boughs, all lit

Creating patterns divine

On the

Uneven walk.


Rare! This Spectacle, seen in another age, as well

…at this precise moment

when the sky is in a flux


drenched in a riot of

dark-blue- grey colours

and a flowering tree, backlit


the composite elements

of the heavenly composition

grab the fleeting attention;


the viewer- concentration

divided between the two metaphysical

entities that uplift

the viewer

reads the live space and writes

lines on such an out-of-world canvas

that firmly echo

refer back, back of mind,

collective consciousness,

to a “mad” painter who goes by the name of Gogh!


Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 21 published books: Seven collections of poetry; three of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.



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