Watchers Of The Sky

A poem by Alfred Noyes

PROLOGUE

The Observatory


At noon, upon the mountain's purple height,
Above the pine-woods and the clouds it shone
No larger than the small white dome of shell
Left by the fledgling wren when wings are born.
By night it joined the company of heaven,
And, with its constant light, became a star.
A needle-point of light, minute, remote,
It sent a subtler message through the abyss,
Held more significance for the seeing eye
Than all the darkness that would blot it out,
Yet could not dwarf it.
High in heaven it shone,
Alive with all the thoughts, and hopes, and dreams
Of man's adventurous mind.
Up there, I knew
The explorers of the sky, the pioneers
Of science, now made ready to attack
That darkness once again, and win new worlds.
To-morrow night they hoped to crown the toil
Of twenty years, and turn upon the sky
The noblest weapon ever made by man.
War had delayed them. They had been drawn away
Designing darker weapons. But no gun
Could outrange this.

"To-morrow night"--so wrote their chief--"we try
Our great new telescope, the hundred-inch.
Your Milton's 'optic tube' has grown in power
Since Galileo, famous, blind, and old,
Talked with him, in that prison, of the sky.
We creep to power by inches. Europe trusts
Her 'giant forty' still. Even to-night
Our own old sixty has its work to do;
And now our hundred-inch . . . I hardly dare
To think what this new muzzle of ours may find.
Come up, and spend that night among the stars
Here, on our mountain-top. If all goes well,
Then, at the least, my friend, you'll see a moon
Stranger, but nearer, many a thousand mile
Than earth has ever seen her, even in dreams.
As for the stars, if seeing them were all,
Three thousand million new-found points of light
Is our rough guess. But never speak of this.
You know our press. They'd miss the one result
To flash 'three thousand millions' round the world."
To-morrow night! For more than twenty years,
They had thought and planned and worked. Ten years had gone,
One-fourth, or more, of man's brief working life,
Before they made those solid tons of glass,
Their hundred-inch reflector, the clear pool,
The polished flawless pool that it must be
To hold the perfect image of a star.
And, even now, some secret flaw--none knew
Until to-morrow's test--might waste it all.
Where was the gambler that would stake so much,--
Time, patience, treasure, on a single throw?
The cost of it,--they'd not find that again,
Either in gold or life-stuff! All their youth
Was fuel to the flame of this one work.
Once in a lifetime to the man of science,
Despite what fools believe his ice-cooled blood,
There comes this drama.
If he fails, he fails
Utterly. He at least will have no time
For fresh beginnings. Other men, no doubt,
Years hence, will use the footholes that he cut
In those precipitous cliffs, and reach the height,
But he will never see it."
So for me,
The light words of that letter seemed to hide
The passion of a lifetime, and I shared
The crowning moment of its hope and fear.
Next day, through whispering aisles of palm we rode
Up to the foot-hills, dreaming desert-hills
That to assuage their own delicious drought
Had set each tawny sun-kissed slope ablaze
With peach and orange orchards.
Up and up,
Along the thin white trail that wound and climbed
And zig-zagged through the grey-green mountain sage,
The car went crawling, till the shining plain
Below it, like an airman's map, unrolled.
Houses and orchards dwindled to white specks
In midget cubes and squares of tufted green.
Once, as we rounded one steep curve, that made
The head swim at the canyoned gulf below,
We saw through thirty miles of lucid air
Elvishly small, sharp as a crumpled petal
Blown from the stem, a yard away, a sail
Lazily drifting on the warm blue sea.
Up for nine miles along that spiral trail
Slowly we wound to reach the lucid height
Above the clouds, where that white dome of shell,
No wren's now, but an eagle's, took the flush
Of dying day. The sage-brush all died out,
And all the southern growths, and round us now,
Firs of the north, and strong, storm-rooted pines
Exhaled a keener fragrance; till, at last,
Reversing all the laws of lesser hills,
They towered like giants round us. Darkness fell
Before we reached the mountain's naked height.

Over us, like some great cathedral dome,
The observatory loomed against the sky;
And the dark mountain with its headlong gulfs
Had lost all memory of the world below;
For all those cloudless throngs of glittering stars
And all those glimmerings where the abyss of space
Is powdered with a milky dust, each grain
A burning sun, and every sun the lord
Of its own darkling planets,--all those lights
Met, in a darker deep, the lights of earth,
Lights on the sea, lights of invisible towns,
Trembling and indistinguishable from stars,
In those black gulfs around the mountain's feet.
Then, into the glimmering dome, with bated breath,
We entered, and, above us, in the gloom
Saw that majestic weapon of the light
Uptowering like the shaft of some huge gun
Through one arched rift of sky.
Dark at its base
With naked arms, the crew that all day long
Had sweated to make ready for this night
Waited their captain's word.
The switchboard shone
With elfin lamps of white and red, and keys
Whence, at a finger's touch, that monstrous tube
Moved like a creature dowered with life and will,
To peer from deep to deep.
Below it pulsed
The clock-machine that slowly, throb by throb,
Timed to the pace of the revolving earth,
Drove the titanic muzzle on and on,
Fixed to the chosen star that else would glide
Out of its field of vision.
So, set free
Balanced against the wheel of time, it swung,
Or rested, while, to find new realms of sky
The dome that housed it, like a moon revolved,
So smoothly that the watchers hardly knew
They moved within; till, through the glimmering doors,
They saw the dark procession of the pines
Like Indian warriors, quietly stealing by.

Then, at a word, the mighty weapon dipped
Its muzzle and aimed at one small point of light
One seeming insignificant star.
The chief,
Mounting the ladder, while we held our breath,
Looked through the eye-piece.
Then we heard him laugh
His thanks to God, and hide it in a jest.
"A prominence on Jupiter!"--
They laughed,
"What do you mean?"--"It's moving," cried the chief,
They laughed again, and watched his glimmering face
High overhead against that moving tower.
"Come up and see, then!"
One by one they went,
And, though each laughed as he returned to earth,
Their souls were in their eyes.
Then I, too, looked,
And saw that insignificant spark of light
Touched with new meaning, beautifully reborn,
A swimming world, a perfect rounded pearl,
Poised in the violet sky; and, as I gazed,
I saw a miracle,--right on its upmost edge
A tiny mound of white that slowly rose,
Then, like an exquisite seed-pearl, swung quite clear
And swam in heaven above its parent world
To greet its three bright sister-moons.
A moon,
Of Jupiter, no more, but clearer far
Than mortal eyes had seen before from earth,
O, beautiful and clear beyond all dreams
Was that one silver phrase of the starry tune
Which Galileo's "old discoverer" first
Dimly revealed, dissolving into clouds
The imagined fabric of our universe.
"Jupiter stands in heaven and will stand
Though all the sycophants bark at him," he cried,
Hailing the truth before he, too, went down,
Whelmed in the cloudy wreckage of that dream.

So one by one we looked, the men who served
Urania, and the men from Vulcan's forge.
A beautiful eagerness in the darkness lit
The swarthy faces that too long had missed
A meaning in the dull mechanic maze
Of labour on this blind earth, but found it now.
Though only a moment's wandering melody
Hopelessly far above, it gave their toil
Its only consecration and its joy.
There, with dark-smouldering eyes and naked throats,
Blue-dungareed, red-shirted, grimed and smeared
With engine-grease and sweat, they gathered round
The foot of that dim ladder; each muttering low
As he came down, his wonder at what he saw
To those who waited,--a picture for the brush
Of Rembrandt, lighted only by the rift
Above them, where the giant muzzle thrust
Out through the dim arched roof, and slowly throbbed,
Against the slowly moving wheel of the earth,
Holding their chosen star.
There, like an elf,
Perched on the side of that dark slanting tower
The Italian mechanician watched the moons,
That Italy discovered.
One by one,
American, English, French, and Dutch, they climbed
To see the wonder that their own blind hands
Had helped to achieve.
At midnight while they paused
To adjust the clock-machine, I wandered out
Alone, into the silence of the night.
The silence? On that lonely height I heard
Eternal voices;
For, as I looked into the gulf beneath,
Whence almost all the lights had vanished now,
The whole dark mountain seemed to have lost its earth
And to be sailing like a ship through heaven.
All round it surged the mighty sea-like sound
Of soughing pine-woods, one vast ebb and flow
Of absolute peace, aloof from all earth's pain,
So calm, so quiet, it seemed the cradle-song,
The deep soft breathing of the universe
Over its youngest child, the soul of man.
And, as I listened, that Aeolian voice
Became an invocation and a prayer:
O you, that on your loftier mountain dwell
And move like light in light among the thoughts
Of heaven, translating our mortality
Into immortal song, is there not one
Among you that can turn to music now
This long dark fight for truth? Not one to touch
With beauty this long battle for the light,
This little victory of the spirit of man
Doomed to defeat--for what was all we saw
To that which neither eyes nor soul could see?--
Doomed to defeat and yet unconquerable,
Climbing its nine miles nearer to the stars.
Wars we have sung. The blind, blood-boltered kings
Move with an epic music to their thrones.
Have you no song, then, of that nobler war?
Of those who strove for light, but could not dream
Even of this victory that they helped to win,
Silent discoverers, lonely pioneers,
Prisoners and exiles, martyrs of the truth
Who handed on the fire, from age to age;
Of those who, step by step, drove back the night
And struggled, year on year, for one more glimpse
Among the stars, of sovran law, their guide;
Of those who searching inward, saw the rocks
Dissolving into a new abyss, and saw
Those planetary systems far within,
Atoms, electrons, whirling on their way
To build and to unbuild our solid world;
Of those who conquered, inch by difficult inch,
The freedom of this realm of law for man;
Dreamers of dreams, the builders of our hope,
The healers and the binders up of wounds,
Who, while the dynasts drenched the world with blood,
Would in the still small circle of a lamp
Wrestle with death like Heracles of old
To save one stricken child.
Is there no song
To touch this moving universe of law
With ultimate light, the glimmer of that great dawn
Which over our ruined altars yet shall break
In purer splendour, and restore mankind
From darker dreams than even Lucretius knew
To vision of that one Power which guides the world.
How should men find it? Only through those doors
Which, opening inward, in each separate soul
Give each man access to that Soul of all
Living within each life, not to be found
Or known, till, looking inward, each alone
Meets the unknowable and eternal God.

And there was one that moved like light in light
Before me there,--Love, human and divine,
That can exalt all weakness into power,--
Whispering, Take this deathless torch of song...
Whispering, but with such faith, that even I
Was humbled into thinking this might be
Through love, though all the wisdom of the world
Account it folly.
Let my breast be bared
To every shaft, then, so that Love be still
My one celestial guide the while I sing
Of those who caught the pure Promethean fire
One from another, each crying as he went down
To one that waited, crowned with youth and joy,--
Take thou the splendour, carry it out of sight
Into the great new age I must not know,
Into the great new realm I must not tread.




I

Copernicus


The neighbours gossiped idly at the door.
Copernicus lay dying overhead.
His little throng of friends, with startled eyes,
Whispered together, in that dark house of dreams,
From which by one dim crevice in the wall
He used to watch the stars.
"His book has come
From Nuremberg at last; but who would dare
To let him see it now?"--
"They have altered it!
Though Rome approved in full, this preface, look,
Declares that his discoveries are a dream!"--
"He has asked a thousand times if it has come;
Could we tear out those pages?"--
"He'd suspect."--
"What shall be done, then?"--
"Hold it back awhile.
That was the priest's voice in the room above.
He may forget it. Those last sacraments
May set his mind at rest, and bring him peace."--
Then, stealing quietly to that upper door,
They opened it a little, and saw within
The lean white deathbed of Copernicus
Who made our world a world without an end.
There, in that narrow room, they saw his face
Grey, seamed with thought, lit by a single lamp;
They saw those glorious eyes
Closing, that once had looked beyond the spheres
And seen our ancient firmaments dissolve
Into a boundless night.
Beside him knelt
Two women, like bowed shadows. At his feet,
An old physician watched him. At his head,
The cowled Franciscan murmured, while the light
Shone faintly on the chalice.
All grew still.
The fragrance of the wine was like faint flowers,
The first breath of those far celestial fields....

Then, like a dying soldier, that must leave
His last command to others, while the fight
Is yet uncertain, and the victory far,
Copernicus whispered, in a fevered dream,
"Yes, it is Death. But you must hold him back,
There, in the doorway, for a little while,
Until I know the work is rightly done.
Use all your weapons, doctor. I must live
To see and touch one copy of my book.
Have they not brought it yet?
They promised me
It should be here by nightfall.
One of you go
And hasten it. I can hold back
Death till dawn.

Have they not brought it yet?--from Nuremberg.
Do not deceive me. I must know it safe,
Printed and safe, for other men to use.
I could die then. My use would be fulfilled.
What has delayed them? Will not some one go
And tell them that my strength is running out?
Tell them that book would be an angel's hand
In mine, an easier pillow for my head,
A little lantern in the engulfing dark.
You see, I hid its struggling light so long
Under too small a bushel, and I fear
It may go out forever. In the noon
Of life's brief day, I could not see the need
As now I see it, when the night shuts down.
I was afraid, perhaps, it might confuse
The lights that guide us for the souls of men.

But now I see three stages in our life.
At first, we bask contented in our sun
And take what daylight shows us for the truth.
Then we discover, in some midnight grief,
How all day long the sunlight blinded us
To depths beyond, where all our knowledge dies.
That's where men shrink, and lose their way in doubt.
Then, last, as death draws nearer, comes a night
In whose majestic shadow men see God,
Absolute Knowledge, reconciling all.
So, all my life I pondered on that scheme
Which makes this earth the centre of all worlds,
Lighted and wheeled around by sun and moon
And that great crystal sphere wherein men thought
Myriads of lesser stars were fixed like lamps,
Each in its place,--one mighty glittering wheel
Revolving round this dark abode of man.
Night after night, with even pace they moved.
Year after year, not altering by one point,
Their order, or their stations, those fixed stars
In that revolving firmament. The Plough
Still pointed to the Pole. Fixed in their sphere,
How else explain that vast unchanging wheel?
How, but by thinking all those lesser lights
Were huger suns, divided from our earth
By so immense a gulf that, if they moved
Ten thousand leagues an hour among themselves,
It would not seem one hair's-breadth to our eyes.
Utterly inconceivable, I know;
And yet we daily kneel to boundless Power
And build our hope on that Infinitude.

This did not daunt me, then. Indeed, I saw
Light upon chaos. Many discordant dreams
Began to move in lucid music now.
For what could be more baffling than the thought
That those enormous heavens must circle earth
Diurnally--a journey that would need
Swiftness to which the lightning flash would seem
A white slug creeping on the walls of night;
While, if earth softly on her axle spun
One quiet revolution answered all.
It was our moving selves that made the sky
Seem to revolve. Have not all ages seen
A like illusion baffling half mankind
In life, thought, art? Men think, at every turn
Of their own souls, the very heavens have moved.

Light upon chaos, light, and yet more light;
For--as I watched the planets--Venus, Mars,
Appeared to wax and wane from month to month
As though they moved, now near, now far, from earth.
Earth could not be their centre. Was the sun
Their sovran lord then, as Pythagoras held?
Was this great earth, so 'stablished, so secure,
A planet also? Did it also move
Around the sun? If this were true, my friends,
No revolution in this world's affairs,
Not that blind maelstrom where imperial Rome
Went down into the dark, could so engulf
All that we thought we knew. We who believed
In our own majesty, we who walked with gods
As younger sons on this proud central stage,
Round which the whole bright firmament revolved
For our especial glory, must we creep
Like ants upon our midget ball of dust
Lost in immensity?
I could not take
That darkness lightly. I withheld my book
For many a year, until I clearly saw,
And Rome approved me--have they not brought it yet?--
That this tremendous music could not drown
The still supernal music of the soul,
Or quench the light that shone when Christ was born.
For who, if one lost star could lead the kings
To God's own Son, would shrink from following these
To His eternal throne?
This at the least
We know, the soul of man can soar through heaven.
It is our own wild wings that dwarf the world
To nothingness beneath us. Let the soul
Take courage, then. If its own thought be true,
Not all the immensities of little minds
Can ever quench its own celestial fire.
No. This new night was needed, that the soul
Might conquer its own kingdom and arise
To its full stature. So, in face of death,
I saw that I must speak the truth I knew.

Have they not brought it? What delays my book?
I am afraid. Tell me the truth, my friends.
At this last hour, the Church may yet withhold
Her sanction. Not the Church, but those who think
A little darkness helps her.
Were this true,
They would do well. If the poor light we win
Confuse or blind us, to the Light of lights,
Let all our wisdom perish. I affirm
A greater Darkness, where the one true Church
Shall after all her agonies of loss
And many an age of doubt, perhaps, to come,
See this processional host of splendours burn
Like tapers round her altar.
So I speak
Not for myself, but for the age unborn.
I caught the fire from those who went before,
The bearers of the torch who could not see
The goal to which they strained. I caught their fire,
And carried it, only a little way beyond;
But there are those that wait for it, I know,
Those who will carry it on to victory.
I dare not fail them. Looking back, I see
Those others,--fallen, with their arms outstretched
Dead, pointing to the future.
Far, far back,
Before the Egyptians built their pyramids
With those dark funnels pointing to the north,
Through which the Pharaohs from their desert tombs
Gaze all night long upon the Polar Star,
Some wandering Arab crept from death to life
Led by the Plough across those wastes of pearl....

Long, long ago--have they not brought it yet?
My book?--I finished it one summer's night,
And felt my blood all beating into song.
I meant to print those verses in my book,
A prelude, hinting at that deeper night
Which darkens all our knowledge. Then I thought
The measure moved too lightly.
Do you recall
Those verses, Elsa? They would pass the time.
How happy I was the night I wrote that song!"
Then, one of those bowed shadows raised her head
And, like a mother crooning to her child,
Murmured the words he wrote, so long ago.

In old Cathay, in far Cathay,
Before the western world began,
They saw the moving fount of day
Eclipsed, as by a shadowy fan;
They stood upon their Chinese wall.
They saw his fire to ashes fade,
And felt the deeper slumber fall
On domes of pearl and towers of jade.

With slim brown hands, in Araby,
They traced, upon the desert sand,
Their Rams and Scorpions of the sky,
And strove--and failed--to understand.
Before their footprints were effaced
The shifting sand forgot their rune;
Their hieroglyphs were all erased,
Their desert naked to the moon.

In Bagdad of the purple nights,
Haroun Al Raschid built a tower,
Where sages watched a thousand lights
And read their legends, for an hour.
The tower is down, the Caliph dead,
Their astrolabes are wrecked with rust.
Orion glitters overhead,
Aladdin's lamp is in the dust.

In Babylon, in Babylon,
They baked their tablets of the clay;
And, year by year, inscribed thereon
The dark eclipses of their day;
They saw the moving finger write
Its Mene, Mene, on their sun.
A mightier shadow cloaks their light,
And clay is clay in Babylon.

A shadow moved towards him from the door.
Copernicus, with a cry, upraised his head.
"The book, I cannot see it, let me feel
The lettering on the cover.
It is here!
Put out the lamp, now. Draw those curtains back,
And let me die with starlight on my face.
An angel's hand in mine . . . yes; I can say
My nunc dimittis now . . . light, and more light
In that pure realm whose darkness is our peace."




II

Tycho Brake


I


They thought him a magician, Tycho Brahe,
Who lived on that strange island in the Sound,
Nine miles from Elsinore.
His legend reached
The Mermaid Inn the year that Shakespeare died.
Fynes Moryson had brought his travellers' tales
Of Wheen, the heart-shaped isle where Tycho made
His great discoveries, and, with Jeppe, his dwarf,
And flaxen-haired Christine, the peasant girl,
Dreamed his great dreams for five-and-twenty years.
For there he lit that lanthorn of the law,
Uraniborg; that fortress of the truth,
With Pegasus flying above its loftiest tower,
While, in its roofs, like wide enchanted eyes
Watching, the brightest windows in the world,
Opened upon the stars.

Nine miles from Elsinore, with all those ghosts,
There's magic enough in that! But white-cliffed Wheen,
Six miles in girth, with crowds of hunchback waves
Crawling all round it, and those moonstruck windows,
Held its own magic, too; for Tycho Brahe
By his mysterious alchemy of dreams
Had so enriched the soil, that when the king
Of England wished to buy it, Denmark asked
A price too great for any king on earth.
"Give us," they said, "in scarlet cardinal's cloth
Enough to cover it, and, at every corner,
Of every piece, a right rose-noble too;
Then all that kings can buy of Wheen is yours.
Only," said they, "a merchant bought it once;
And, when he came to claim it, goblins flocked
All round him, from its forty goblin farms,
And mocked him, bidding him take away the stones
That he had bought, for nothing else was his."
These things were fables. They were also true.
They thought him a magician, Tycho Brahe,
The astrologer, who wore the mask of gold.
Perhaps he was. There's magic in the truth;
And only those who find and follow its laws
Can work its miracles.
Tycho sought the truth
From that strange year in boyhood when he heard
The great eclipse foretold; and, on the day
Appointed, at the very minute even,
Beheld the weirdly punctual shadow creep
Across the sun, bewildering all the birds
With thoughts of evening.
Picture him, on that day,
The boy at Copenhagen, with his mane
Of thick red hair, thrusting his freckled face
Out of his upper window, holding the piece
Of glass he blackened above his candle-flame
To watch that orange ember in the sky
Wane into smouldering ash.
He whispered there,
"So it is true. By searching in the heavens,
Men can foretell the future."
In the street
Below him, throngs were babbling of the plague
That might or might not follow.
He resolved
To make himself the master of that deep art
And know what might be known.
He bought the books
Of Stadius, with his tables of the stars.
Night after night, among the gabled roofs,
Climbing and creeping through a world unknown
Save to the roosting stork, he learned to find
The constellations, Cassiopeia's throne,
The Plough still pointing to the Polar Star,
The sword-belt of Orion. There he watched
The movements of the planets, hours on hours,
And wondered at the mystery of it all.
All this he did in secret, for his birth
Was noble, and such wonderings were a sign
Of low estate, when Tycho Brahe was young;
And all his kinsmen hoped that Tycho Brahe
Would live, serene as they, among his dogs
And horses; or, if honour must be won,
Let the superfluous glory flow from fields
Where blood might still be shed; or from those courts
Where statesmen lie. But Tycho sought the truth.
So, when they sent him in his tutor's charge
To Leipzig, for such studies as they held
More worthy of his princely blood, he searched
The Almagest; and, while his tutor slept,
Measured the delicate angles of the stars,
Out of his window, with his compasses,
His only instrument. Even with this rude aid
He found so many an ancient record wrong
That more and more he burned to find the truth.

One night at home, as Tycho searched the sky,
Out of his window, compasses in hand,
Fixing one point upon a planet, one
Upon some loftier star, a ripple of laughter
Startled him, from the garden walk below.
He lowered his compass, peered into the dark
And saw--Christine, the blue-eyed peasant girl,
With bare brown feet, standing among the flowers.
She held what seemed an apple in her hand;
And, in a voice that Aprilled all his blood,
The low soft voice of earth, drawing him down
From those cold heights to that warm breast of Spring,
A natural voice that had not learned to use
The false tones of the world, simple and clear
As a bird's voice, out of the fragrant darkness called,
"I saw it falling from your window-ledge!
I thought it was an apple, till it rolled
Over my foot.
It's heavy. Shall I try
To throw it back to you?"
Tycho saw a stain
Of purple across one small arched glistening foot.
"Your foot Is bruised," he cried.
"O no," she laughed,
And plucked the stain off. "Only a petal, see."
She showed it to him.
"But this--I wonder now
If I can throw it."
Twice she tried and failed;
Or Tycho failed to catch that slippery sphere.
He saw the supple body swaying below,
The ripe red lips that parted as she laughed,
And those deep eyes where all the stars were drowned.

At the third time he caught it; and she vanished,
Waving her hand, a little floating moth,
Between the pine-trees, into the warm dark night.
He turned into his room, and quickly thrust
Under his pillow that forbidden fruit;
For the door opened, and the hot red face
Of Otto Brahe, his father, glowered at him.
"What's this? What's this?"
The furious-eyed old man
Limped to the bedside, pulled the mystery out,
And stared upon the strangest apple of Eve
That ever troubled Eden,--heavy as bronze,
And delicately enchased with silver stars,
The small celestial globe that Tycho bought
In Leipzig.
Then the storm burst on his head!
This moon-struck 'pothecary's-prentice work,
These cheap-jack calendar-maker's gypsy tricks
Would damn the mother of any Knutsdorp squire,
And crown his father like a stag of ten.
Quarrel on quarrel followed from that night,
Till Tycho sickened of his ancient name;
And, wandering through the woods about his home,
Found on a hill-top, ringed with fragrant pines,
A little open glade of whispering ferns.
Thither, at night, he stole to watch the stars;
And there he told the oldest tale on earth
To one that watched beside him, one whose eyes
Shone with true love, more beautiful than the stars,
A daughter of earth, the peasant-girl, Christine.

They met there, in the dusk, on his last night
At home, before he went to Wittenberg.
They stood knee-deep among the whispering ferns,
And said good-bye.
"I shall return," he said,
"And shame them for their folly, who would set
Their pride above the stars, Christine, and you.
At Wittenberg or Rostoch I shall find
More chances and more knowledge. All those worlds
Are still to conquer. We know nothing yet;
The books are crammed with fables. They foretell
Here an eclipse, and there a dawning moon,
But most of them were out a month or more
On Jupiter and Saturn.
There's one way,
And only one, to knowledge of the law
Whereby the stars are steered, and so to read
The future, even perhaps the destinies
Of men and nations,--only one sure way,
And that's to watch them, watch them, and record
The truth we know, and not the lies we dream.
Dear, while I watch them, though the hills and sea
Divide us, every night our eyes can meet
Among those constant glories. Every night
Your eyes and mine, upraised to that bright realm,
Can, in one moment, speak across the world.
I shall come back with knowledge and with power,
And you--will wait for me?"
She answered him
In silence, with the starlight of her eyes.




II


He watched the skies at Wittenberg. The plague
Drove him to Rostoch, and he watched them there;
But, even there, the plague of little minds
Beset him. At a wedding-feast he met
His noble countryman, Manderup, who asked,
With mocking courtesy, whether Tycho Brahe
Was ready yet to practise his black art
At country fairs. The guests, and Tycho, laughed;
Whereat the swaggering Junker blandly sneered,
"If fortune-telling fail, Christine will dance,
Thus--tambourine on hip," he struck a pose.
"Her pretty feet will pack that booth of yours."
They fought, at midnight, in a wood, with swords.
And not a spark of light but those that leapt
Blue from the clashing blades. Tycho had lost
His moon and stars awhile, almost his life;
For, in one furious bout, his enemy's blade
Dashed like a scribble of lightning into the face
Of Tycho Brahe, and left him spluttering blood,
Groping through that dark wood with outstretched hands,
To fall in a death-black swoon.
They carried him back
To Rostoch; and when Tycho saw at last
That mirrored patch of mutilated flesh,
Seared as by fire, between the frank blue eyes
And firm young mouth where, like a living flower
Upon some stricken tree, youth lingered still,
He'd but one thought, Christine would shrink from him
In fear, or worse, in pity. An end had come
Worse than old age, to all the glory of youth.
Urania would not let her lover stray
Into a mortal's arms. He must remain
Her own, for ever; and for ever, alone.

Yet, as the days went by, to face the world,
He made himself a delicate mask of gold
And silver, shaped like those that minstrels wear
At carnival in Venice, or when love,
Disguising its disguise of mortal flesh,
Wooes as a nameless prince from far away.
And when this world's day, with its blaze and coil
Was ended, and the first white star awoke
In that pure realm where all our tumults die,
His eyes and hers, meeting on Hesperus,
Renewed their troth.
He seemed to see Christine,
Ringed by the pine-trees on that distant hill,
A small white figure, lost in space and time,
Yet gazing at the sky, and conquering all,
Height, depth, and heaven itself, by the sheer power
Of love at one with everlasting laws,
A love that shared the constancy of heaven,
And spoke to him across, above, the world.




III


Not till he crossed the Danube did he find
Among the fountains and the storied eaves
Of Augsburg, one to share his task with him.
Paul Hainzel, of that city, greatly loved
To talk with Tycho of the strange new dreams
Copernicus had kindled. Did this earth
Move? Was the sun the centre of our scheme?
And Tycho told him, there is but one way
To know the truth, and that's to sweep aside
All the dark cobwebs of old sophistry,
And watch and learn that moving alphabet,
Each smallest silver character inscribed
Upon the skies themselves, noting them down,
Till on a day we find them taking shape
In phrases, with a meaning; and, at last,
The hard-won beauty of that celestial book
With all its epic harmonies unfold
Like some great poet's universal song.

He was a great magician, Tycho Brahe.
"Hainzel," he said, "we have no magic wand,
But what the truth can give us. If we find
Even with a compass, through a bedroom window,
That half the glittering Almagest is wrong,
Think you, what noble conquests might be ours,
Had we but nobler instruments."
He showed
Quivering with eagerness, his first rude plan
For that great quadrant,--not the wooden toy
Of old Scultetus, but a kingly weapon,
Huge as a Roman battering-ram, and fine
In its divisions as any goldsmith's work.
"It could be built," said Tycho, "but the cost
Would buy a dozen culverin for your wars."
Then Hainzel, fired by Tycho's burning brain,
Answered, "We'll make it We've a war to wage
On Chaos, and his kingdoms of the night."
They chose the cunningest artists of the town,
Clock-makers, jewellers, carpenters, and smiths,
And, setting them all afire with Tycho's dream,
Within a month his dream was oak and brass.
Its beams were fourteen cubits, solid oak,
Banded with iron. Its arch was polished brass
Whereon five thousand exquisite divisions
Were marked to show the minutes of degrees.

So huge and heavy it was, a score of men,
Could hardly drag and fix it to its place
In Hainzel's garden.
Many a shining night,
Tycho and Hainzel, out of that maze of flowers,
Charted the stars, discovering point by point,
How all the records erred, until the fame
Of this new master, hovering above the schools
Like a strange hawk, threatened the creeping dreams
Of all the Aristotelians, and began
To set their mouse-holes twittering "Tycho Brahe!"

Then Tycho Brahe came home, to find Christine.
Up to that whispering glade of ferns he sped,
At the first wink of Hesperus.
He stood
In shadow, under the darkest pine, to hide
The little golden mask upon his face.
He wondered, will she shrink from me in fear
Or loathing? Will she even come at all?
And, as he wondered, like a light she moved
Before him.
"Is it you?"--
"Christine! Christine,"
He whispered, "It is I, the mountebank,
Playing a jest upon you. It's only a mask!
Do not be frightened. I am here behind it."

Her red lips parted, and between them shone,
The little teeth like white pomegranate seeds.
He saw her frightened eyes.
Then, with a cry,
Her arms went round him, and her eyelids closed.
Lying against his heart, she set her lips
Against his lips, and claimed him for her own.




IV


One frosty night, as Tycho bent his way
Home to the dark old abbey, he upraised
His eyes, and saw a portent in the sky.
There, in its most familiar patch of blue,
Where Cassiopeia's five-fold glory burned,
An unknown brilliance quivered, a huge star
Unseen before, a strange new visitant
To heavens unchangeable, as the world believed,
Since the creation.
Could new stars be born?
Night after night he watched that miracle
Growing and changing colour as it grew;
White at the first, and large as Jupiter;
And, in the third month, yellow, and larger yet;
Red in the fifth month, like Aldebaran,
And larger even than Lyra. In the seventh,
Bluish like Saturn; whence it dulled and dwined
Little by little, till after eight months more
Into the dark abysmal blue of night,
Whence it arose, the wonder died away.
But, while it blazed above him, Tycho brought
Those delicate records of two hundred nights
To Copenhagen. There, in his golden mask,
At supper with Pratensis, who believed
Only what old books told him, Tycho met
Dancey, the French Ambassador, rainbow-gay
In satin hose and doublet, supple and thin,
Brown-eyed, and bearded with a soft black tuft
Neat as a blackbird's wing,--a spirit as keen
And swift as France on all the starry trails
Of thought.
He saw the deep and simple fire,
The mystery of all genius in those eyes
Above that golden wizard.
Tycho raised
His wine-cup, brimming--they thought--with purple dreams;
And bade them drink to their triumphant Queen
Of all the Muses, to their Lady of Light
Urania, and the great new star.
They laughed,
Thinking the young astrologer's golden mask
Hid a sardonic jest.
"The skies are clear,"
Said Tycho Brahe, "and we have eyes to see.
Put out your candles. Open those windows there!"
The colder darkness breathed upon their brows,
And Tycho pointed, into the deep blue night.
There, in their most immutable height of heaven,
In ipso caelo, in the ethereal realm,
Beyond all planets, red as Mars it burned,
The one impossible glory.
"But it's true!"
Pratensis gasped; then, clutching the first straw,
"Now I recall how Pliny the Elder said,
Hipparchus also saw a strange new star,
Not where the comets, not where the Rosae bloom
And fade, but in that solid crystal sphere
Where nothing changes."
Tycho smiled, and showed
The record of his watchings.
"But the world
Must know all this," cried Dancey. "You must print it."
"Print it?" said Tycho, turning that golden mask
On both his friends. "Could I, a noble, print
This trafficking with Urania in a book?
They'd hound me out of Denmark! This disgrace
Of work, with hands or brain, no matter why,
No matter how, in one who ought to dwell
Fixed to the solid upper sphere, my friends,
Would never be forgiven."
Dancey stared
In mute amazement, but that mask of gold
Outstared him, sphinx-like, and inscrutable.

Soon through all Europe, like the blinded moths,
Roused by a lantern in old palaces
Among the mouldering tapestries of thought,
Weird fables woke and fluttered to and fro,
And wild-eyed sages hunted them for truth.
The Italian, Frangipani, thought the star
The lost Electra, that had left her throne
Among the Pleiads, and plunged into the night
Like a veiled mourner, when Troy town was burned.
The German painter, Busch, of Erfurt, wrote,
"It was a comet, made of mortal sins;
A poisonous mist, touched by the wrath of God
To fire; from which there would descend on earth
All manner of evil--plagues and sudden death,
Frenchmen and famine."
Preachers thumped and raved.
Theodore Beza in Calvin's pulpit tore
His grim black gown, and vowed it was the Star
That led the Magi. It had now returned
To mark the world's end and the Judgment Day.
Then, in this hubbub, Dancey told the king
Of Denmark, "There is one who knows the truth--
Your subject Tycho Brahe, who, night by night,
Watched and recorded all that truth could see.
It would bring honour to all Denmark, sire,
If Tycho could forget his rank awhile,
And print these great discoveries in a book,
For all the world to read."
So Tycho Brahe
Received a letter in the king's own hand,
Urging him, "Truth is the one pure fountain-head
Of all nobility. Pray forget your rank."
His noble kinsmen echoed, "If you wish
To please His Majesty and ourselves, forget
Your rank."
"I will," said Tycho Brahe;
"Your reasoning has convinced me. I will print
My book, 'De Nova Stella.' And to prove
All you have said concerning temporal rank
And this eternal truth you love so well,
I marry, to-day,"--they foamed, but all their mouths
Were stopped and stuffed and sealed with their own words,--
"I marry to-day my own true love, Christine."




V


They thought him a magician, Tycho Brahe.
Perhaps he was. There's magic all around us
In rocks and trees, and in the minds of men,
Deep hidden springs of magic.
He that strikes
The rock aright, may find them where he will.

And Tycho tasted happiness in his hour.
There was a prince in Denmark in those days;
And, when he heard how other kings desired
The secrets of this new astrology,
He said, "This man, in after years, will bring
Glory to Denmark, honour to her prince.
He is a Dane. Give him this isle of Wheen,
And let him make his great discoveries there.
Let him have gold to buy his instruments,
And build his house and his observatory."

So Tycho set this island where he lived
Whispering with wizardry; and, in its heart,
He lighted that strange lanthorn of the law,
And built himself that wonder of the world,
Uraniborg, a fortress for the truth,
A city of the heavens.
Around it ran
A mighty rampart twenty-two feet high,
And twenty feet in thickness at the base.
Its angles pointed north, south, east and west,
With gates and turrets; and, within this wall,
Were fruitful orchards, apple, and cherry, and pear;
And, sheltered in their midst from all but sun,
A garden, warm and busy with singing bees.
There, many an hour, his flaxen-haired Christine,
Sang to her child, her first-born, Magdalen,
Or watched her playing, a flower among the flowers.
Dark in the centre of that zone of bliss
Arose the magic towers of Tycho Brahe.
Two of them had great windows in their roofs
Opening upon the sky where'er he willed,
And under these observatories he made
A library of many a golden book;
Poets and sages of old Greece and Rome,
And many a mellow legend, many a dream
Of dawning truth in Egypt, or the dusk
Of Araby. Under all of these he made
A subterranean crypt for alchemy,
With sixteen furnaces; and, under this,
He sank a well, so deep, that Jeppe declared
He had tapped the central fountains of the world,
And drew his magic from those cold clear springs.
This was the very well, said Jeppe, the dwarf,
Where Truth was hidden; but, by Tycho Brahe
And his weird skill, the magic water flowed,
Through pipes, uphill, to all the house above:
The kitchen where his cooks could broil a trout
For sages or prepare a feast for kings;
The garrets for the students in the roof;
The guest-rooms, and the red room to the north,
The study and the blue room to the south;
The small octagonal yellow room that held
The sunlight like a jewel all day long,
And Magdalen, with her happy dreams, at night;
Then, facing to the west, one long green room,
The ceiling painted like the bower of Eve
With flowers and leaves, the windows opening wide
Through which Christine and Tycho Brahe at dawn
Could see the white sails drifting on the Sound
Like petals from their orchard.
To the north,
He built a printing house for noble books,
Poems, and those deep legends of the sky,
Still to be born at his Uraniborg.
Beyond the rampart to the north arose
A workshop for his instruments. To the south
A low thatched farm-house rambled round a yard
Alive with clucking hens; and, further yet
To southward on another hill, he made
A great house for his larger instruments,
And called it Stiernborg, mountain of the stars.

And, on his towers and turrets, Tycho set
Statues with golden verses in the praise
Of famous men, the bearers of the torch,
From Ptolemy to the new Copernicus.
Then, in that storm-proof mountain of the stars,
He set in all their splendour of new-made brass
His armouries for the assault of heaven,--
Circles in azimuth, armillary spheres,
Revolving zodiacs with great brazen rings;
Quadrants of solid brass, ten cubits broad,
Brass parallactic rules, made to revolve
In azimuth; clocks with wheels; an astrolabe;
And that large globe strengthened by oaken beams
He made at Augsburg.
All his gold he spent;
But Denmark had a prince in those great days;
And, in his brain, the dreams of Tycho Brahe
Kindled a thirst for glory. So he made
Tycho the Lord of sundry lands and rents,
And Keeper of the Chapel where the kings
Of Oldenburg were buried; for he said
"To whom could all these kings entrust their bones
More fitly than to him who read the stars,
And though a mortal, knew immortal laws;
And paced, at night, the silent halls of heaven."




VI


He was a great magician, Tycho Brahe.
There, on his island, for a score of years,
He watched the skies, recording star on star,
For future ages, and, by patient toil,
Perfected his great tables of the sun,
The moon, the planets.
There, too happy far
For any history, sons and daughters rose,
A little clan of love, around Christine;
And Tycho thought, when I am dead, my sons
Will rule and work in my Uraniborg.
And yet a doubt would trouble him, for he knew
The children of Christine would still be held
Ignoble, by the world.
Disciples came,
Young-eyed and swift, the bearers of the torch
From many a city to Uraniborg,
And Tycho Brahe received them like a king,
And bade them light their torches at his fire.
The King of Scotland came, with all his court,
And dwelt eight days in Tycho Brahe's domain,
Asking him many a riddle, deep and dark,
Whose answer, none the less, a king should know.
What boots it on this earth to be a king,
To rule a part of earth, and not to know
The worth of his own realm, whether he rule
As God's vice-gerent, and his realm be still
The centre of the centre of all worlds;
Or whether, as Copernicus proclaimed,
This earth itself be moving, a lost grain
Of dust among the innumerable stars?
For this would dwarf all glory but the soul,
In king or peasant, that can hail the truth,
Though truth should slay it.
So to Tycho Brahe,
The king became a subject for eight days.
But, in the crowded hall, when he had gone,
Jeppe raised his matted head, with a chuckle of glee,
Quiet as the gurgle of joy in a dark rock-pool,
When the first ripple and wash of the first spring-tide
Flows bubbling under the dry sun-blackened fringe
Of seaweed, setting it all afloat again,
In magical colours, like a merman's hair.
"Jeppe has a thought," the gay young students cried,
Thronging him round, for all believed that Jeppe
Was fey, and had strange visions of the truth.
"What is the thought, Jeppe?"
"I can think no thoughts,"
Croaked Jeppe. "But I have made myself a song."
"Silence," they cried, "for Jeppe the nightingale!
Sing, Jeppe!"
And, wagging his great head to and fro
Before the fire, with deep dark eyes, he crooned:

THE SONG OF JEPPE

"What!" said the king,
"Is earth a bird or bee?
Can this uncharted boundless realm of ours
Drone thro' the sky, with leagues of struggling sea,
Forests, and hills, and towns, and palace-towers?"
"Ay," said the dwarf,
"I have watched from Stiernborg's crown
Her far dark rim uplift against the sky;
But, while earth soars, men say the stars go down;
And, while earth sails, men say the stars go by."
An elvish tale!
Ask Jeppe, the dwarf! He knows.
That's why his eyes look fey; for, chuckling deep,
Heels over head amongst the stars he goes,
As all men go; but most are sound asleep.
King, saint, sage,
Even those that count it true,
Act as this miracle touched them not at all.
They are borne, undizzied, thro' the rushing blue,
And build their empires on a sky-tossed ball.

Then said the king,
"If earth so lightly move,
What of my realm? O, what shall now stand sure?"
"Naught," said the dwarf, "in all this world, but love.
All else is dream-stuff and shall not endure.
'Tis nearer now!
Our universe hath no centre,
Our shadowy earth and fleeting heavens no stay,
But that deep inward realm which each can enter,
Even Jeppe, the dwarf, by his own secret way."

"Where?" said the king,
"O, where? I have not found it!"
"Here," said the dwarf, and music echoed "here."
"This infinite circle hath no line to bound it;
Therefore that deep strange centre is everywhere.
Let the earth soar thro' heaven, that centre abideth;
Or plunge to the pit, His covenant still holds true.
In the heart of a dying bird, the Master hideth;
In the soul of a king," said the dwarf,
"and in my soul, too."




VII


Princes and courtiers came, a few to seek
A little knowledge, many more to gape
In wonder at Tycho's gold and silver mask;
Or when they saw the beauty of his towers,
Envy and hate him for them.
Thus arose
The small grey cloud upon the distant sky,
That broke in storm at last.
"Beware," croaked Jeppe,
Lifting his shaggy head beside the fire,
When guests like these had gone, "Master, beware!"
And Tycho of the frank blue eyes would laugh.
Even when he found Witichius playing him false
His anger, like a momentary breeze,
Died on the dreaming deep; for Tycho Brahe
Turned to a nobler riddle,--"Have you thought,"
He asked his young disciples, "how the sea
Is moved to that strange rhythm we call the tides?
He that can answer this shall have his name
Honoured among the bearers of the torch
While Pegasus flies above Uraniborg.
I was delayed three hours or more to-day
By the neap-tide. The fishermen on the coast
Are never wrong. They time it by the moon.
Post hoc, perhaps, not propter hoc; and yet
Through all the changes of the sky and sea
That old white clock of ours with the battered face
Does seem infallible.
There's a love-song too,
The sailors on the coast of Sweden sing,
I have often pondered it. Your courtly poets
Upbraid the inconstant moon. But these men know
The moon and sea are lovers, and they move
In a most constant measure. Hear the words
And tell me, if you can, what silver chains
Bind them together." Then, in a voice as low
And rhythmical as the sea, he spoke that song:

THE SHEPHERDESS OF THE SEA

Reproach not yet our sails' delay;
You cannot see the shoaling bay,
The banks of sand, the fretful bars,
That ebb left naked to the stars.
The sea's white shepherdess, the moon,
Shall lead us into harbour soon.

Dear, when you see her glory shine
Between your fragrant boughs of pine,
Know there is but one hour to wait
Before her hands unlock the gate,
And the full flood of singing foam
Follow her lovely footsteps home.

Then waves like flocks of silver sheep
Come rustling inland from the deep,
And into rambling valleys press
Behind their heavenly shepherdess.
You cannot see them? Lift your eyes
And see their mistress in the skies.
She rises with her silver bow.

I feel the tide begin to flow;
And every thought and hope and dream
Follow her call, and homeward stream.
Borne on the universal tide,
The wanderer hastens to his bride.
The sea's white shepherdess, the moon,
Shall lead him into harbour, soon.




VIII


He was a great magician, Tycho Brahe,
But not so great that he could read the heart
Or rule the hand of princes.
When his friend
King Frederick died, the young Prince Christian reigned;
And, round him, fool and knave made common cause
Against the magic that could pour their gold
Into a gulf of stars. This Tycho Brahe
Had grown too proud. He held them in contempt,
So they believed; for, when he spoke, their thoughts
Crept at his feet like spaniels. Junkerdom
Felt it was foolish, for he towered above it,
And so it hated him. Did he not spend
Gold that a fool could spend as quickly as he?
Were there not great estates bestowed upon him
In wisdom's name, that from the dawn of time
Had been the natural right of Junkerdom?
And would he not bequeath them to his heirs,
The children of Christine, an unfree woman?
"Why you, sire, even you," they told the king,
"He has made a laughing-stock. That horoscope
He read for you, the night when you were born,
Printed, and bound it in green velvet, too,--
Read it The whole world laughs at it. He said
That Venus was the star that ruled your fate,
And Venus would destroy you. Tycho Brahe
Inspired your royal father with the fear
That kept your youth so long in leading-strings,
The fear that every pretty hedgerow flower
Would be your Circe. So he thought to avenge
Our mockery of this peasant-girl Christine,
To whom, indeed, he plays the faithful swine,
Knowing full well his gold and silver nose
Would never win another."
Thus the sky
Darkened above Uraniborg, and those
Who dwelt within it, till one evil day,
One seeming happy day, when Tycho marked
The seven-hundredth star upon his chart,
Two pompous officers from Walchendorp,
The chancellor, knocked at Tycho's eastern gate.
"We are sent," they said, "to see and to report
What use you make of these estates of yours.
Your alchemy has turned more gold to lead
Than Denmark can approve. The uses now!
Show us the uses of this work of yours."
Then Tycho showed his tables of the stars,
Seven hundred stars, each noted in its place
With exquisite precision, the result
Of watching heaven for five-and-twenty years.
"And is this all?" they said.
They sought to invent
Some ground for damning him. The truth alone
Would serve them, as it seemed. For these were men
Who could not understand.
"Not all, I hope,"
Said Tycho, "for I think, before I die,
I shall have marked a thousand."
"To what end?
When shall we reap the fruits of all this toil?
Show us its uses."
"In the time to come,"
Said Tycho Brahe, "perhaps a hundred years,
Perhaps a thousand, when our own poor names
Are quite forgotten, and our kingdoms dust,
On one sure certain day, the torch-bearers
Will, at some point of contact, see a light
Moving upon this chaos. Though our eyes
Be shut for ever in an iron sleep,
Their eyes shall see the kingdom of the law,
Our undiscovered cosmos. They shall see it--
A new creation rising from the deep,
Beautiful, whole.
We are like men that hear
Disjointed notes of some supernal choir.
Year after year, we patiently record
All we can gather. In that far-off time,
A people that we have not known shall hear them,
Moving like music to a single end."

They could not understand: this life that sought
Only to bear the torch and hand it on;
And so they made report that all the dreams
Of Tycho Brahe were fruitless; perilous, too,
Since he avowed that any fruit they bore
Would fall, in distant years, to alien hands.

Little by little, Walchendorp withdrew
His rents from Tycho Brahe, accusing him
Of gross neglects. The Chapel at Roskilde
Was falling into ruin. Tycho Brahe
Was Keeper of the Bones of Oldenburg.
He must rebuild the Chapel. All the gifts
That Frederick gave to help him in his task,
Were turned to stumbling-blocks; till, one dark day,
He called his young disciples round him there,
And in that mellow library of dreams,
Lit by the dying sunset, poured his heart
And mind before them, bidding them farewell.
Through the wide-open windows as he spoke
They heard the sorrowful whisper of the sea
Ebbing and flowing around Uraniborg.
"An end has come," he said, "to all we planned.
Uraniborg has drained her treasury dry.
Your Alma Mater now must close her gates
On you, her guests; on me; and, worst of all,
On one most dear, who made this place my home.
For you are young, your homes are all to win,
And you would all have gone your separate ways
In a brief while; and, though I think you love
Your college of the skies, it could not mean
All that it meant to those who called it 'home.'

You that have worked with me, for one brief year,
Will never quite forget Uraniborg.
This room, the sunset gilding all those books,
The star-charts and that old celestial globe,
The long bright evenings by the winter fire,
Of Tycho Brahe were fruitless; perilous
The talk that opened heaven, the songs you sung,
Yes, even, I think, the tricks you played with Jeppe,
Will somehow, when yourselves are growing old,
Be hallowed into beauty, touched with tears,
For you will wish they might be yours again.

These have been mine for five-and-twenty years,
And more than these,--the work, the dreams I shared
With you, and others here. My heart will break
To leave them. But the appointed time has come
As it must come to all men.
You and I
Have watched too many constant stars to dream
That heaven or earth, the destinies of men
Or nations, are the sport of chance. An end
Comes to us all through blindness, age, or death.
If mine must come in exile, it stall find me
Bearing the torch as far as I can bear it,
Until I fall at the feet of the young runner,
Who takes it from me, and carries it out of sight,
Into the great new age I shall not know,
Into the great new realms I must not tread.
Come, then, swift-footed, let me see you stand
Waiting before me, crowned with youth and joy,
At the next turning. Take it from my hand,
For I am almost ready now to fall.

Something I have achieved, yes, though I say it,
I have not loitered on that fiery way.
And if I front the judgment of the wise
In centuries to come, with more of dread
Than my destroyers, it is because this work
Will be of use, remembered and appraised,
When all their hate is dead.
I say the work,
Not the blind rumour, the glory or fame of it.
These observations of seven hundred stars
Are little enough in sight of those great hosts
Which nightly wheel around us, though I hope,
Yes, I still hope, in some more generous land
To make my thousand up before I die.
Little enough, I know,--a midget's work!
The men that follow me, with more delicate art
May add their tens of thousands; yet my sum
Will save them just that five-and-twenty years
Of patience, bring them sooner to their goal,
That kingdom of the law I shall not see.
We are on the verge of great discoveries.
I feel them as a dreamer feels the dawn
Before his eyes are open

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