You know the type of scenes I mean. The one where rays of light spread out like sunbeams in a Gainsborough painting and you just want to shout “Pah!” at your e-reader, because they’re not real. Are they?
Until I moved to France I thought they were things of fiction (although given the amount of rain and wind we’re having at the moment they still might be!). But I realise now it was probably because I’d never lived anywhere with such a wide panoramic view of the sky.
But I discovered recently there is a name for them, crepuscular rays, and if you’ve ever seen them you’ll know that they don’t just appear at sunset, but at any time whenever the atmospheric conditions are right.
These fanning rays appear to converge on the sun wherever it is in the sky. Sometimes it’s a shaft of light through a gap in the clouds or more spectacularly across the sky as the sun disappears over the horizon.
In The Mysteries of Udolpho, the master of gothic romance, Ann Radcliffe has several sunset scenes that fit the bill.
Later on she describes:
But you have to be quick. In the blink of the eye, those crepuscular rays disappear and the sky looks ordinary once again. I think Radcliffe describes the feeling perfectly with another sunset scene.