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Thread: poetry and astronomy

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    laudator temporis acti andave_ya's Avatar
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    poetry and astronomy

    Can anyone suggest some poems that have themes related to astronomy? I have an assignment to write about one, but I don't want to do it on the ones I"m finding online. Which ones are your favorites?
    "The time has come," the Walrus said,
    "To talk of many things:
    Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
    Of cabbages--and kings--
    And why the sea is boiling hot--
    And whether pigs have wings."

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Tennyson's Ulysses perhaps? It isn't exactly themed, but it makes references to astronomy. In a sense, it is a classical/neo-classical convention to make references to the planets, and stars. Just think of Shakespeare's star imagery, or any other great poet's for that matter. The convention is rooted in antique thought, and has become a part of our cultural makeup.

    That being said, of all the times I have encountered it, it was never the "main" theme, and merely a convention. The closest I can think of is Blake, though that too is a convention, though a very complex one.

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    Registered User quasimodo1's Avatar
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    Walt Whitman

    When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
    by Walt Whitman


    When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
    When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
    When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
    When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
    How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
    Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
    In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
    Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

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    Registered User quasimodo1's Avatar
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    John Koethe

    What the Stars Meant
    by John Koethe


    On a backwards-running clock in Lisbon,
    By the marble statue of Pessoa;
    On an antique astrolabe in London
    Tracing out the sky above Samoa,


    Thousands of miles away—in time, in place,
    Each night conspires to create a myth
    That stands for nothing real, yet leaves you with
    The vague impression of a human face.


    The fragments fly apart and shift, trembling
    On the threshold of a kind of fullness:
    The minor wonder of remembering;
    The greater wonders of forgetfulness.


    For one looks back as someone else might yearn
    For a new life, and set his course upon
    The polestar, bid his adieus, and move on.
    The journey takes a solipsistic turn,


    Forsaking starlight for an inner glow,
    And reducing all human history,
    All human culture—highbrow, middle-, low-—
    To one reflecting surface, one story.


    What fills the heaven of a single mind?
    The things that used to fill Kant’s mind with awe
    —“The starry heavens and the moral law”—
    Seem distant now, and difficult to find


    Amid the message of satiety
    Issuing from the corners of the sky,
    Filled with monotonous variety:
    Game shows, an interview with Princess Di,


    And happy talk, and sitcoms and the news,
    The **** that floats across your living room
    Each weekday evening. Waiting in the pews,
    Out in the desert where the cacti bloom,


    Something else was forming, something stranger
    Gathering in the gulf below the stairs—
    As though the mystery of the manger
    Were written in the day-to-day affairs


    Of a world consecrated to Mammon,
    Yet governed by those sacred absences
    That make the spirit soar, and presences
    At one remove, like the sound of Cuban


    Drumbeats issuing from the Ricardos’
    Love nest on the television station
    Like distant thunder; or Leonardo’s
    “Wave that flees the site of its creation.”


    In the desert far beyond the city,
    One hears the cadences for which one longs,
    The lyrics of those half-forgotten songs,
    —Some of them poignant, some of them witty—


    Brimming with the melody of passage;
    One feels the wind that blows the soul about,
    Repeating its inscrutable message;
    And as night falls, one sees the stars come out.


    I found myself beneath a canopy
    Of scenes left out of someone else’s life
    —The dog that didn’t bark, Rosebud, Cain’s wife—
    Arrayed above me in a panoply


    Of glittering debris, gigantic swirls
    Of stars, and slowly moving caravans
    Of stars like tiny Christmas lights or pearls
    Of tapioca, floating in a danse


    macabre across the heavens as I stood,
    Watching the pageant in the sky unfold.
    I felt the chill of something much too old
    To comprehend—not the Form of the Good,


    But something inchoate and violent,
    A Form of Darkness. Suddenly the songs
    Floating through the revelry fell silent,
    As in The Masque of the Red Death, as throngs


    Of the dead twinkled at me from above.
    The intimate domain of memory
    Became an endless field of entropy
    Transfigured, inking in the outlines of


    Eurydice entombed, Orpheus immured,
    And, in the center of their universe,
    That subtler diadem of stars obscured
    By the brighter constellations, the Hearse.


    {excerpt}

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    Registered User quasimodo1's Avatar
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    Ralph Hodgeson

    Reason has moons, but moons not hers,
    Lie mirror'd on her sea,
    Confounding her astronomers,
    But O! delighting me.

    This fellow is associated with Cornell U. and not a poet per se.

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    laudator temporis acti andave_ya's Avatar
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    Thank you very much!! I enjoyed the Koethe very much; what an intriguing poem!
    "The time has come," the Walrus said,
    "To talk of many things:
    Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
    Of cabbages--and kings--
    And why the sea is boiling hot--
    And whether pigs have wings."

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    Quote Originally Posted by andave_ya View Post
    Thank you very much!! I enjoyed the Koethe very much; what an intriguing poem!
    Indeed, so.

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