The Sun, Moon and stars above escape the thoughts of no one, particularly the poets who have made their own beckoning of the Universe. Some of the titans of the metered word have put down thoughts a century before electricity that still rings true in our very modern world.
Those very dark skies in every backyard of the19th Century stirred all kinds of emotions. Two of the “Fireside Poets,” Holmes and Longfellow, shared a love for the night sky: here one speaks of celestial armor, the other the certainty of life in the Universe. Here also is a short poem of the many dozen that Robert Frost penned about stargazing—this one dodging meteors! And just for good measure, how about an 8th Century Chines poet and his drinking with the Moon? And you can’t leave out a classic from the master Poe.
There are hundreds of astronomy inspired poems, which are perfect for cloudy nights. They can transcend the mind to a place in the Universe, just like a telescope, both seeking the answers to questions raised through antiquity—where are we? What is the starry realm above us? And are we alone? Look up and just say twinkle, twinkle…
Have I not walked without an upward look
Of caution under stars that very well
Might not have missed me when they shot and fell?
It was a risk I had to take — and took.
– Robert Frost circa 1950
The Secret of the Stars
Is man’s the only throbbing heart that hides
The silent spring that feeds its whispering tides?
Speak from the caverns, mystery-breeding Earth,
Tell the half-hinted story of thy birth,
And calm the noisy champions who have thrown
The book of types against the book of stone!
Have ye not secrets, ye refulgent spheres,
No sleepless listener of the starlight hears?
In vain the sweeping equatorial pries
Through every world-sown corner of the skies,
To the far orb that so remotely strays
Our midnight darkness is its noonday blaze;
In vain the climbing soul of creeping man
Metes out the heavenly concave with a span,
Tracks into space the long-lost meteor’s trail,
And weighs an unseen planet in the scale;
Still o’er their doubts the waneyed watchers sigh,
And Science lifts her still unanswered cry:
“Are all these worlds, that speed their circling flight,
Dumb, vacant, soulless, – baubles of the night?
Warmed with God’s smile and wafted by his breath,
To weave in ceaseless round the dance of Death?
Or rolls a sphere in each expanding zone,
Crowned with a life as vaired as our own?”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes 1836
Torrent of light and river of the air,
Along whose bed the glimmering stars are seen
Like gold and silver sands in some ravine
Where mountain streams have left their channels bare !
The Spaniard sees in thee the pathway, where
His patron saint descended in the sheen
Of his celestial armor on serene
And quiet nights, when all the heavens were fair.
Not this I see, nor yet the ancient fable
Of Phaeton’s wild course, that scorched the skies
Where’er the hoofs of his hot coursers trod;
But the white drift of worlds o’er chasms of sable,
The star dust, that is whirled aloft and flies
From the invisible chariot-wheels of God.
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1850s
‘Twas noontide of summer,
And mid-time of night;
And stars, in their orbits,
Shone pale, thro’ the light
Of the brighter, cold moon,
‘Mid planets her slaves,
Herself in the Heavens,
Her beam on the waves.
I gazed awhile
On her cold smile;
Too cold- too cold for me-
There pass’d, as a shroud,
A fleecy cloud,
And I turned away to thee,
Proud Evening Star,
In thy glory afar,
And dearer thy beam shall be;
For joy to my heart
Is the proud part
Thou bearest in Heaven at night,
And more I admire
Thy distant fire,
Than that colder, lowly light.
– Edgar Allan Poe, 1827
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are !
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Then the trav’ller in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.
In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often thro’ my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.
‘Tis your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the trav’ller in the dark :
Tho’ I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
– Jane Taylor, 1806