Italian Sunrise


I stand at the window, and one by one slanting rays of the rising sun fall like golden ribbons across the roofs of the little town standing proudly on the hill. I gaze at the houses and streets, tumbling down towards the grey-green mistiness of the fertile plain, which stretches to the edge of sight in a patchwork of sunflowers, olives, cypresses and vines.

The curved roof-tiles take fire from the light, and glow like embers, yellow, orange, umber, and brown. Their curves, echoing the undulations of the roofs, remind me of sand ripples on the shore on a Summer’s day. Doves fly up into the sky, weaving through the beams of light as dancers weave through the ribbons round a maypole; and, completing the mingling of images in my mind, bring back the memory of gulls lifting into the vastness of the sky above the sea.

The ringing of bells from the campaniles above the houses had startled the doves into flight, bells which join their music to the calling of songbirds in every garden and courtyard. Across the way a blackbird pours out its challenge from the peak of the convent roof. A ribbon of light picks him out, intensifying the brilliant orange of his beak.

The dark columns of cypresses, cedars and poplars, standing in rows beside the fields, now stretch their elongated shadows across the plain; and, like the maypoles from which the ribbons fall, the dark shapes of tall towers are silhouetted on the skyline above me, exclamation marks against the sky. Raised by merchants in mediaeval times, each one taller than the one before, they declared their owner’s wealth and power. Contrasting with the sun’s ribbons of light, their black, shadows also lie across the town, deepening the darkness of its narrow streets and stairways.

Over to my right is the whale-back hump of the mountain on whose knee the town stands. The tallest of man’s frail buildings cannot compete with its majesty and grandeur; in proof of which it puts on a golden halo.

At last, like a balloon set free from its tethering string, the sun sails up into the blue, and the light becomes a glorious flood pouring down the mountain slopes, an avalanche banishing the last of the night, which had hidden in its crevices and gorges. When it reaches the town, the sun’s ribbons are transformed into a wonderful cloak wrapping the whole scene in warmth and splendour.

I too am set free, and turning from the window I venture out into the world whose beauty has been revealed to me by the morning light.

This is in memory  of a visit to Assisi thirty odd years ago.

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