Of course, a streetlight washed city sky is no true test. I have two benchmarks for star-viewing: a night camping along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Sierra Nevada of California in the early 1970s, and a night on a beach on Aitutaki in the Cook Islands in the 1980s (where I saw the Southern Cross for the first time). Skies like that have a way of putting you in your place.
Harald Sohlberg, "Winter Night in the Mountains" (1918)
Ivor Gurney was an inveterate night walker. Hence, the stars make frequent appearances in his poetry (as does dawn, when he was often still walking).
One lucky hour in middle of my tiredness
I came under the pines of the sheer steep
And saw the stars like steady candles gleam
Above and through; Brimscombe wrapped (past life) in sleep!
Such body weariness and ugliness
Had gone before, such tiredness to come on me --
This perfect moment had such pure clemency
That it my memory has all coloured since,
Forgetting the blackness and pain so driven hence.
And the naked uplands even from bramble free.
That ringed-in hour of pines, stars, and dark eminence.
(The thing we looked for in our fear of France.)
Ivor Gurney, Selected Poems (edited by George Walter) (J. M. Dent 1996).
The lines "This perfect moment had such pure clemency/That it my memory has all coloured since" bring to mind similar thoughts from Derek Mahon in "Thinking of Inis Oirr in Cambridge, Mass." ("I clutch the memory still, and I/Have measured everything with it since") and Seamus Heaney in "The Peninsula" (". . . now you will uncode all landscapes/By this: things founded clean on their own shapes,/Water and ground in their extremity").
Harald Sohlberg, "Winter Night in the Mountains" (1901)
In the following poem, Thomas Hardy also finds himself alone beneath the stars out in the countryside. Hardy wrote his fair share of night-poems, many of which are spookily set in graveyards or on windy headlands or in empty Dorset lanes. But this poem is rather restful and peaceful (albeit with a whisper of Mortality at the end).
There is nobody on the road
And no beseeming abode
I can try
For shelter, so abroad
I must lie.
The stars feel not far up,
And to be
The lights by which I sup
Set out in a hollow cup
They wag as though they were
Panting for joy
Where they shine, above all care,
And demons of despair --
Sometimes outside the fence
Feet swing past,
Clock-like, and then go hence,
Till at last
There is a silence, dense,
Deep, and vast.
A wanderer, witch-drawn
To and fro,
To-morrow, at the dawn,
On I go,
And where I rest anon
Do not know!
Yet it's meet -- this bed of hay
And roofless plight;
For there's a house of clay,
My own, quite,
To roof me soon, all day
And all night.
Thomas Hardy, Late Lyrics and Earlier, with Many Other Verses (1922).
Harald Sohlberg, "Winter Night in the Mountains" (1911)