Galileo

A poem by Alfred Noyes

I


(Celeste, in the Convent at Arcetri, writes to her old lover at Rome.)

My friend, my dearest friend, my own dear love,
I, who am dead to love, and see around me
The funeral tapers lighted, send this cry
Out of my heart to yours, before the end.
You told me once you would endure the rack
To save my heart one pang. O, save it now!
Last night there came a dreadful word from Rome
For my dear lord and father, summoning him
Before the inquisitors there, to take his trial
At threescore years and ten. There is a threat
Of torture, if his lips will not deny
The truth his eyes have seen.
You know my father,
You know me, too. You never will believe
That he and I are enemies of the faith.
Could I, who put away all earthly love,
Deny the Cross to which I nailed this flesh?
Could he, who, on the night when all those heavens
Opened above us, with their circling worlds,
Knelt with me, crushed beneath that weight of glory,
Forget the Maker of that glory now?
You'll not believe it. Neither would the Church,
Had not his enemies poisoned all the springs
And fountain-heads of truth. It is not Rome
That summons him, but Magini, Sizy, Scheiner,
Lorini, all the blind, pedantic crew
That envy him his fame, and hate his works
For dwarfing theirs.
Must such things always be
When truth is born?
Only five nights ago we walked together,
My father and I, here in the Convent garden;
And, as the dusk turned everything to dreams,
We dreamed together of his work well done
And happiness to be. We did not dream
That even then, muttering above his book,
His enemies, those enemies whom the truth
Stings into hate, were plotting to destroy him.
Yet something shadowed him. I recall his words--
"The grapes are ripening. See, Celeste, how black
And heavy. We shall have good wine this year,"--
"Yes, all grows ripe," I said, "your life-work, too,
Dear father. Are you happy now to know
Your book is printed, and the new world born?"
He shook his head, a little sadly, I thought.
"Autumn's too full of endings. Fruits grow ripe
And fall, and then comes winter."
"Not for you!
Never," I said, "for those who write their names
In heaven. Think, father, through all ages now
No one can ever watch that starry sky
Without remembering you. Your fame ..."
And there
He stopped me, laid his hand upon my arm,
And standing in the darkness with dead leaves
Drifting around him, and his bare grey head
Bowed in complete humility, his voice
Shaken and low, he said like one in prayer,
"Celeste, beware of that. Say truth, not fame.
If there be any happiness on earth,
It springs from truth alone, the truth we live
In act and thought. I have looked up there and seen
Too many worlds to talk of fame on earth.
Fame, on this grain of dust among the stars,
The trumpet of a gnat that thinks to halt
The great sun-clusters moving on their way
In silence! Yes, that's fame, but truth, Celeste,
Truth and its laws are constant, even up there;
That's where one man may face and fight the world.
His weakness turns to strength. He is made one
With universal forces, and he holds
The password to eternity.
Gate after gate swings back through all the heavens.
No sentry halts him, and no flaming sword.
Say truth, Celeste, not fame."
"No, for I'll say
A better word," I told him. "I'll say love."
He took my face between his hands and said--
His face all dark between me and the stars--
"What's love, Celeste, but this dear face of truth
Upturned to heaven."
He left me, and I heard,
Some twelve hours later, that this man whose soul
Was dedicate to Truth, was threatened now
With torture, if his lips did not deny
The truth he loved.
I tell you all these things
Because to help him, you must understand him;
And even you may doubt him, if you hear
Only those plausible outside witnesses
Who never heard his heart-beats as have I.
So let me tell you all--his quest for truth,
And how this hate began.
Even from the first,
He made his enemies of those almost-minds
Who chanced upon some new thing in the dark
And could not see its meaning, for he saw,
Always, the law illumining it within.
So when he heard of that strange optic-glass
Which brought the distance near, he thought it out
By reason, where that other hit upon it
Only by chance. He made his telescope;
And O, how vividly that day comes back,
When in their gorgeous robes the Senate stood
Beside him on that high Venetian tower,
Scanning the bare blue sea that showed no speck
Of sail. Then, one by one, he bade them look;
And one by one they gasped, "a miracle."
Brown sails and red, a fleet of fishing boats,
See how the bright foam bursts around their bows!
See how the bare-legged sailors walk the decks!
Then, quickly looking up, as if to catch
The vision, ere it tricked them, all they saw
Was empty sea again.
Many believed
That all was trickery, but he bade them note
The colours of the boats, and count their sails.
Then, in a little while, the naked eye
Saw on the sky-line certain specks that grew,
Took form and colour; and, within an hour,
Their magic fleet came foaming into port.
Whereat old senators, wagging their white beards,
And plucking at golden chains with stiff old claws
Too feeble for the sword-hilt, squeaked at once:
"This glass will give us great advantages
In time of war."
War, war, O God of love,
Even amidst their wonder at Thy world,
Dazed with new beauty, gifted with new powers,
These old men dreamed of blood. This was the thought
To which all else must pander, if he hoped
Even for one hour to see those dull eyes blaze
At his discoveries.
"Wolves," he called them, "wolves";
And yet he humoured them. He stooped to them.
Promised them more advantages, and talked
As elders do to children. You may call it
Weakness, and yet could any man do more,
Alone, against a world, with such a trust
To guard for future ages? All his life
He has had some weanling truth to guard, has fought
Desperately to defend it, taking cover
Wherever he could, behind old fallen trees
Of superstition, or ruins of old thought.
He has read horoscopes to keep his work
Among the stars in favour with his prince,
I tell you this that you may understand
What seems inconstant in him. It may be
That he was wrong in these things, and must pay
A dreadful penalty. But you must explore
His mind's great ranges, plains and lonely peaks
Before you know him, as I know him now.
How could he talk to children, but in words
That children understand? Have not some said
That God Himself has made His glory dark
For men to bear it. In his human sphere
My father has done this.
War was the dream
That filmed those old men's eyes. They did not hear
My father, when he hinted at his hope
Of opening up the heavens for mankind
With that new power of bringing far things near.
My heart burned as I heard him; but they blinked
Like owls at noonday. Then I saw him turn,
Desperately, to humour them, from thoughts
Of heaven to thoughts of warfare.
Late that night
My own dear lord and father came to me
And whispered, with a glory in his face
As one who has looked on things too beautiful
To breathe aloud, "Come out, Celeste, and see
A miracle."
I followed him. He showed me,
Looking along his outstretched hand, a star,
A point of light above our olive-trees.
It was the star called Jupiter. And then
He bade me look again, but through his glass.
I feared to look at first, lest I should see
Some wonder never meant for mortal eyes.
He too, had felt the same, not fear, but awe,
As if his hand were laid upon the veil
Between this world and heaven.
Then . . . I, too, saw,
Small as the smallest bead of mist that clings
To a spider's thread at dawn, the floating disk
Of what had been a star, a planet now,
And near it, with no disk that eyes could see,
Four needle-points of light, unseen before.
"The moons of Jupiter," he whispered low,
"I have watched them as they moved, from night to night;
A system like our own, although the world
Their fourfold lights and shadows make so strange
Must--as I think--be mightier than we dreamed,
A Titan planet. Earth begins to fade
And dwindle; yes, the heavens are opening now.
Perhaps up there, this night, some lonely soul
Gazes at earth, watches our dawning moon,
And wonders, as we wonder."
In that dark
We knelt together . . .
Very strange to see
The vanity and fickleness of princes.
Before his enemies had provoked the wrath
Of Rome against him, he had given the name
Of Medicean stars to those four moons
In honour of Prince Cosmo. This aroused
The court of France to seek a lasting place
Upon the map of heaven. A letter came
Beseeching him to find another star
Even more brilliant, and to call it Henri
After the reigning and most brilliant prince
Of France. They did not wish the family name
Of Bourbon. This would dissipate the glory.
No, they preferred his proper name of Henri.
We read it together in the garden here,
Weeping with laughter, never dreaming then
That this, this, this, could stir the little hearts
Of men to envy.
O, but afterwards,
The blindness of the men who thought themselves
His enemies. The men who never knew him,
The men that had set up a thing of straw
And called it by his name, and wished to burn
Their image and himself in one wild fire.
Men? Were they men or children? They refused
Even to look through Galileo's glass,
Lest seeing might persuade them. Even that sage,
That great Aristotelian, Julius Libri,
Holding his breath there, like a fractious child
Until his cheeks grew purple, and the veins
Were bursting on his brow, swore he would die
Sooner than look.
And that poor monstrous babe
Not long thereafter, kept his word and died,
Died of his own pent rage, as I have heard.
Whereat my lord and father shook his head
And, smiling, somewhat sadly--oh, you know
That smile of his, more deadly to the false
Than even his reasoning--murmured, "Libri, dead,
Who called the moons of Jupiter absurd!
He swore he would not look at them from earth,
I hope he saw them on his way to heaven."
Welser in Augsburg, Clavius at Rome,
Scoffed at the fabled moons of Jupiter,
It was a trick, they said. He had made a glass
To fool the world with false appearances.
Perhaps the lens was flawed. Perhaps his wits
Were wandering. Anything rather than the truth
Which might disturb the mighty in their seat.
"Let Galileo hold his own opinions.
I, Clavius, will hold mine."
He wrote to Kepler;
"You, Kepler, are the first, whose open mind
And lofty genius could accept for truth
The things which I have seen. With you for friend,
The abuse of the multitude will not trouble me.
Jupiter stands in heaven and will stand,
Though all the sycophants bark at him.
In Pisa,
Florence, Bologna, Venice, Padua,
Many have seen the moons. These witnesses
Are silent and uncertain. Do you wonder?
Most of them could not, even when they saw them,
Distinguish Mars from Jupiter. Shall we side
With Heraclitus or Democritus?
I think, my Kepler, we will only laugh
At this immeasurable stupidity.
Picture the leaders of our college here.
A thousand times I have offered them the proof
Of their own eyes. They sleep here, like gorged snakes,
Refusing even to look at planets, moons,
Or telescope. They think philosophy
Is all in books, and that the truth is found
Neither in nature, nor the Universe,
But in comparing texts. How you would laugh
Had you but heard our first philosopher
Before the Grand Duke, trying to tear down
And argue the new planets out of heaven,
Now by his own weird logic and closed eyes
And now by magic spells."
How could he help
Despising them a little? It's an error
Even for a giant to despise a midge;
For, when the giant reels beneath some stroke
Of fate, the buzzing clouds will swoop upon him,
Cluster and feed upon his bleeding wounds,
And do what midges can to sting him blind.
These human midges have not missed their chance.
They have missed no smallest spot upon that sun.
My mother was not married--they have found--
To my dear father. All his children, then,
And doubtless all their thoughts are evil, too;
But who that judged him ever sought to know
Whether, as evil sometimes wears the cloak
Of virtue, nobler virtue in this man
Might wear that outward semblance of a sin?
Yes, even you who love me, may believe
These thoughts are born of my own tainted heart;
And yet I write them, kneeling in my cell
And whisper them to One who blesses me
Here, from His Cross, upon the bare grey wall.
So, if you love me, bless me also, you,
By helping him. Make plain to all you meet
What part his enemies have played in this.
How some one, somehow, altered the command
Laid on him all those years ago, by Rome,
So that it reads to-day as if he vowed
Never to think or breathe that this round earth
Moves with its sister-planets round the sun.
'Tis true he promised not to write or speak
As if this truth were 'stablished equally
With God's eternal laws; and so he wrote
His Dialogues, reasoning for it, and against,
And gave the last word to Simplicio,
Saying that human reason must bow down
Before the power of God.
And even this
His enemies have twisted to a sneer
Against the Pope, and cunningly declared
Simplicio to be Urban.
Why, my friend,
There were three dolphins on the titlepage,
Each with the tail of another in its mouth.
The censor had not seen this, and they swore
It held some hidden meaning. Then they found
The same three dolphins sprawled on all the books
Landini printed at his Florence press.
They tried another charge.
I am not afraid
Of any truth that they can bring against him;
But, O, my friend, I more than fear their lies.
I do not fear the justice of our God;
But I do fear the vanity of men;
Even of Urban; not His Holiness,
But Urban, the weak man, who may resent,
And in resentment rush half-way to meet
This cunning lie with credence. Vanity!
O, half the wrongs on earth arise from that!
Greed, and war's pomp, all envy, and most hate,
Are born of that; while one dear humble heart,
Beating with love for man, between two thieves,
Proves more than all His wounds and miracles
Our Crucified to be the Son of God.
Say that I long to see him; that my prayers
Knock at the gates of mercy, night and day.
Urge him to leave the judgment now with God
And strive no more.
If he be right, the stars
Fight for him in their courses. Let him bow
His poor, dishonoured, glorious, old grey head
Before this storm, and then come home to me.
O, quickly, or I fear 'twill be too late;
For I am dying. Do not tell him this;
But I must live to hold his hands again,
And know that he is safe.
I dare not leave him, helpless and half blind,
Half father and half child, to rack and cord.
By all the Christ within you, save him, you;
And, though you may have ceased to love me now,
One faithful shadow in your own last hour
Shall watch beside you till all shadows die,
And heaven unfold to bless you where I failed.




II


(Scheiner writes to Castelli, after the Trial.)

What think you of your Galileo now,
Your hero that like Ajax should defy
The lightning? Yesterday I saw him stand
Trembling before our court of Cardinals,
Trembling before the colour of their robes
As sheep, before the slaughter, at the sight
And smell of blood. His lips could hardly speak,
And--mark you--neither rack, nor cord had touched him.
Out of the Inquisition's five degrees
Of rigor: first, the public threat of torture;
Second, the repetition of the threat
Within the torture-chamber, where we show
The instruments of torture to the accused;
Third, the undressing and the binding; fourth,
Laying him on the rack; then, fifth and last,
Torture, territio realis; out of these,
Your Galileo reached the second only,
When, clapping both his hands against his sides,
He whined about a rupture that forbade
These extreme courses. Great heroic soul
Dropped like a cur into a sea of terror,
He sank right under. Then he came up gasping,
Ready to swear, deny, abjure, recant,
Anything, everything! Foolish, weak, old man,
Who had been so proud of his discoveries,
And dared to teach his betters. How we grinned
To see him kneeling there and whispering, thus,
Through his white lips, bending his old grey head:
"I, Galileo Galilei, born
A Florentine, now seventy years of age,
Kneeling before you, having before mine eyes,
And touching with my hands the Holy Gospels,
Swear that I always have believed, do now,
And always will believe what Holy Church
Has held and preached and taught me to believe;
And now, whereas I rightly am accused,
Of heresy, having falsely held the sun
To be the centre of our Universe,
And also that this earth is not the centre,
But moves;
I most illogically desire
Completely to expunge this dark suspicion,
So reasonably conceived. I now abjure,
Detest and curse these errors; and I swear
That should I know another, friend or foe,
Holding the selfsame heresy as myself,
I will denounce him to the Inquisitor
In whatsoever place I chance to be.
So help me God, and these His Holy Gospels,
Which with my hands I touch!"
You will observe
His promise to denounce. Beware, Castelli!
What think you of your Galileo now?




III


(Castelli writes, enclosing Schemer's letter, to Campanella.)

What think I? This,--that he has laid his hands
Like Samson on the pillars of our world,
And one more trembling utterance such as this
Will overwhelm us all.
O, Campanella,
You know that I am loyal to our faith,
As Galileo too has always been.
You know that I believe, as he believes,
In the one Catholic Apostolic Church;
Yet there are many times when I could wish
That some blind Samson would indeed tear down
All this proud temporal fabric, made with hands,
And that, once more, we suffered with our Lord,
Were persecuted, crucified with Him.
I tell you, Campanella, on that day
When Galileo faced our Cardinals,
A veil was rent for me. There, in one flash,
I saw the eternal tragedy, transformed
Into new terms. I saw the Christ once more,
Before the court of Pilate. Peter there
Denied Him once again; and, as for me,
Never has all my soul so humbly knelt
To God in Christ, as when that sad old man
Bowed his grey head, and knelt--at seventy years--
To acquiesce, and shake the world with shame.
He shall not strive or cry! Strange, is it not,
How nearly Scheiner--even amidst his hate--
Quoted the Prophets? Do we think this world
So greatly bettered, that the ancient cry,
"Despised, rejected," hails our God no more?




IV


(Celeste writes to her father in his imprisonment at Siena.)

Dear father, it will seem a thousand years
Until I see you home again and well.
I would not have you doubt that all this time
I have prayed for you continually. I saw
A copy of your sentence. I was grieved;
And yet it gladdened me, for I found a way
To be of use, by taking on myself
Your penance. Therefore, if you fail in this,
If you forget it--and indeed, to save you
The trouble of remembering it--your child
Will do it for you.
Ah, could she do more!
How willingly would your Celeste endure
A straiter prison than she lives in now
To set you free.
"A prison," I have said;
And yet, if you were here, 'twould not be so.
When you were pent in Rome, I used to say,
"Would he were at Siena!" God fulfilled
That wish. You are at Siena; and I now say
Would he were at Arcctri.
So perhaps
Little by little, angels can be wooed
Each day, by some new prayer of mine or yours,
To bring you wholly back to me, and save
Some few of the flying days that yet remain.
You see, these other Nuns have each their friend,
Their patron Saint, their ever near devoto,
To whom they tell their joys and griefs; but I
Have only you, dear father, and if you
Were only near me, I could want no more.
Your garden looks as if it missed your love.
The unpruned branches lean against the wall
To look for you. The walks run wild with flowers.
Even your watch-tower seems to wait for you;
And, though the fruit is not so good this year
(The vines were hurt by hail, I think, and thieves
Have climbed the wall too often for the pears),
The crop of peas is good, and only waits
Your hand to gather it.
In the dovecote, too,
You'll find some plump young pigeons. We must make
A feast for your return.
In my small plot,
Here at the Convent, better watched than yours,
I raised a little harvest. With the price
I got for it, I had three Masses said
For my dear father's sake.




V


(Galileo writes to his friend Castelli, after his return to
Arcetri.)

Castelli, O Castelli, she is dead.
I found her driving death back with her soul
Till I should come.
I could not even see
Her face.--These useless eyes had spent their power
On distant worlds, and lost that last faint look
Of love on earth.
I am in the dark, Castelli,
Utterly and irreparably blind.
The Universe which once these outworn eyes
Enlarged so far beyond its ancient bounds
Is henceforth shrunk into that narrow space
Which I myself inhabit.
Yet I found
Even in the dark, her tears against my face,
Her thin soft childish arms around my neck,
And her voice whispering ... love, undying love;
Asking me, at this last, to tell her true,
If we should meet again.
Her trust in me
Had shaken her faith in what my judges held;
And, as I felt her fingers clutch my hand,
Like a child drowning, "Tell me the truth," she said,
"Before I lose the light of your dear face"--
It seemed so strange that dying she could see me
While I had lost her,--"tell me, before I go."
"Believe in Love," was all my soul could breathe.
I heard no answer. Only I felt her hand
Clasp mine and hold it tighter. Then she died,
And left me to my darkness. Could I guess
At unseen glories, in this deeper night,
Make new discoveries of profounder realms,
Within the soul? O, could I find Him there,
Rise to Him through His harmonies of law
And make His will my own!
This much, at least,
I know already, that--in some strange way--
His law implies His love; for, failing that
All grows discordant, and the primal Power
Ignobler than His children.
So I trust
One day to find her, waiting for me still,
When all things are made new.
I raise this torch
Of knowledge. It is one with my right hand,
And the dark sap that keeps it burning flows
Out of my heart; and yet, for all my faith,
It shows me only darkness.
Was I wrong?
Did I forget the subtler truth of Rome
And, in my pride, obscure the world's one light?
Did I subordinate to this moving earth
Our swiftlier-moving God?
O, my Celeste,
Once, once at least, you knew far more than I;
And she is dead, Castelli, she is dead.




VI


(Viviani, many years later, writes to a friend in England)

I was his last disciple, as you say
I went to him, at seventeen years of age,
And offered him my hands and eyes to use,
When, voicing the true mind and heart of Rome,
Father Castelli, his most faithful friend,
Wrote, for my master, that compassionate plea;
The noblest eye that Nature ever made
Is darkened; one so exquisitely dowered,
So delicate in power that it beheld
More than all other eyes in ages gone
And opened the eyes of all that are to come.
But, out of England, even then, there shone
The first ethereal promise of light
That crowns my master dead. Well I recall
That day of days. There was no faintest breath
Among his garden cypress-trees. They dreamed
Dark, on a sky too beautiful for tears,
And the first star was trembling overhead,
When, quietly as a messenger from heaven,
Moving unseen, through his own purer realm,
Amongst the shadows of our mortal world,
A young man, with a strange light on his face
Knocked at the door of Galileo's house.
His name was Milton.
By the hand of God,
He, the one living soul on earth with power
To read the starry soul of this blind man,
Was led through Italy to his prison door.
He looked on Galileo, touched his hand ...
O, dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark ....
In after days,
He wrote it; but it pulsed within him then;
And Galileo rising to his feet
And turning on him those unseeing eyes
That had searched heaven and seen so many worlds,
Said to him, "You have found me."
Often he told me in those last sad months
Of how your grave young island poet brought
Peace to him, with the knowledge that, far off,
In other lands, the truth he had proclaimed
Was gathering power.
Soon after, death unlocked
His prison, and the city that he loved,
Florence, his town of flowers, whose gates in life
He was forbid to pass, received him dead.

You write to me from England, that his name
Is now among the mightiest in the world,
And in his name I thank you.
I am old;
And I was very young when, long ago,
I stood beside his poor dishonoured grave
Where hate denied him even an epitaph;
And I have seen, slowly and silently,
His purer fame arising, like a moon
In marble on the twilight of those aisles
At Santa Croce, where the dread decree
Was read against him.
Now, against two wrongs,
Let me defend two victims: first, the Church
Whom many have vilified for my master's doom;
And second, Galileo, whom they reproach
Because they think that in his blind old age
He might with one great eagle's glance have cowed
His judges, played the hero, raised his hands
Above his head, and posturing like a mummer
Cried (as one empty rumour now declares)
After his recantation--yet, it moves!
Out of this wild confusion, fourfold wrongs
Are heaped on both sides.--I would fain bring peace,
The peace of truth to both before I die;
And, as I hope, rest at my master's feet.
It was not Rome that tried to murder truth;
But the blind hate and vanity of man.
Had Galileo but concealed the smile
With which, like Socrates, he answered fools,
They would not, in the name of Christ, have mixed
This hemlock in his chalice.
O pitiful
Pitiful human hearts that must deny
Their own unfolding heavens, for one light word
Twisted by whispering malice.
Did he mean
Simplicio, in his dialogues, for the Pope?
Doubtful enough--the name was borrowed straight
From older dialogues.
If he gave one thought
Of Urban's to Simplicio--you know well
How composite are all characters in books,
How authors find their colours here and there,
And paint both saints and villains from themselves.
No matter. This was Urban. Make it clear.
Simplicio means a simpleton. The saints
Are aroused by ridicule to most human wrath.
Urban was once his friend. This hint of ours
Kills all of that. And so we mortals close
The doors of Love and Knowledge on the world.
And so, for many an age, the name of Christ
Has been misused by man to mask man's hate.
How should the Church escape, then? I who loved
My master, know he had no truer friend
Than many of those true servants of the Church,
Fathers and priests who, in their lowlier sphere,
Moved nearer than her cardinals to the Christ.
These were the very Rome, and held her keys.
Those who charge Rome with hatred of the light
Would charge the sun with darkness, and accuse
This dome of sky for all the blood-red wrongs
That men commit beneath it. Art and song
That found her once in Europe their sole shrine
And sanctuary absolve her from that stain.

But there's this other charge against my friend,
And master, Galileo. It is brought
By friends, made sharper by their pity and grief,
The charge that he refused his martyrdom
And so denied his own high faith.
Whose faith,--
His friends', his Protestant followers', or his own?
Faced by the torture, that sublime old man
Was still a faithful Catholic, and his thought
Plunged deeper than his Protestant followers knew.
His aim was not to strike a blow at Rome
But to confound his enemies. He believed
As humbly as Castelli or Celeste
That there is nothing absolute but that Power
With which his Church confronted him. To this
He bowed his head, acknowledging that his light
Was darkness; but affirming, all the more,
That Ptolemy's light was even darker yet.
Read your own Protestant Milton, who derived
His mighty argument from my master's lips:
"Whether the sun predominant in heaven
Rise on the earth, or earth rise on the sun;
Leave them to God above; Him serve and fear."
Just as in boyhood, when my master watched
The swinging lamp in the cathedral there
At Pisa; and, by one finger on his pulse,
Found that, although the great bronze miracle swung
Through ever-shortening spaces, yet it moved
More slowly, and so still swung in equal times;
He straight devised another boon to man,
Those pulse-clocks which by many a fevered bed
Our doctors use; dreamed of that timepiece, too,
Whose punctual swinging pendulum on earth
Measures the starry periods, and to-day
Talks peacefully to children by the fire
Like an old grandad full of ancient tales,
Remembering endless ages, and foretelling
Eternities to come; but, all the while
There, in the dim cathedral, he knew well,
That dreaming youngster, with his tawny mane
Of red-gold hair, and deep ethereal eyes,
What odorous clouds of incense round him rose;
Was conscious in the dimness, of great throngs
Kneeling around him; shared in his own heart
The music and the silence and the cry,
O, salutaris hostia!--so now,
There was no mortal conflict in his mind
Between his dream-clocks and things absolute,
And one far voice, most absolute of all,
Feeble with suffering, calling night and day
"Return, return;" the voice of his Celeste.
All these things co-existed, and the less
Were comprehended, like the swinging lamp,
Within that great cathedral of his soul.
Often he bade me, in that desolate house
Il Giojello, of old a jewel of light,
Read to him one sad letter, till he knew
The most of it by heart, and while he walked
His garden, leaning on my arm, at times
I think he quite forgot that I was there;
For he would quietly murmur it to himself,
As if she had sent it, half an hour ago:
"Now, with this little winter's gift of fruit
I send you, father, from our southward wall,
Our convent's rarest flower, a Christmas rose.
At this cold season, it should please you much,
Seeing how rare it is; but, with the rose,
You must accept its thorns, which bring to mind
Our Lord's own bitter Passion. Its green leaves
Image the hope that through His Passion we,
After this winter of our mortal life,
May find the beauty of an eternal spring
In heaven."
Praise me the martyr, out of whose agonies
Some great new hope is born, but not the fool
Who starves his heart to prove what eyes can see
And intellect confirm throughout the world.
Why must he follow the idiot schoolboy code,
Torture his soul to reinforce the sight
Of those that closed their eyes and would not see.
To your own men of science, fifty turns
Of the thumbscrew would not prove that earth revolved.
Call it Italian subtlety if you will,
I say his intricate cause could not be won
By blind heroics. Much that his enemies challenged
Was not yet wholly proven, though his mind
Had leapt to a certainty. He must leave the rest
To those that should come after, swift and young,--
Those runners with the torch for whom he longed
As his deliverers. Had he chosen death
Before his hour, his proofs had been obscured
For many a year. His respite gave him time
To push new pawns out, in the blindfold play
Of those last months, and checkmate, not the Church
But those that hid behind her. He believed
His truth was all harmonious with her own.
How could he choose between them? Must he die
To affirm a discord that himself denied?
On many a point, he was less sure than we:
But surer far of much that we forget
The movements that he saw he could but judge
By some fixed point in space. He chose the sun.
Could this be absolute? Could he then be sure
That this great sun did not with all its worlds
Move round a deeper centre? What became
Of your Copernicus then? Could he be sure
Of any unchanging centre, whence to judge
This myriad-marching universe, but one--
The absolute throne of God.
Affirming this
Eternal Rock, his own uncertainties
Became more certain, and although his lips
Breathed not a syllable of it, though he stood
Silent as earth that also seemed so still,
The very silence thundered, yet it moves!

He held to what he knew, secured his work
Through feeble hands like mine, in other lands,
Not least in England, as I think you know.
For, partly through your poet, as I believe,
When his great music rolled upon your skies,
New thoughts were kindled in the general mind.
'Twas at Arcetri that your Milton gained
The first great glimpse of his celestial realm.
Picture him,--still a prisoner of our light,
Closing his glorious eyes--that in the dark,
He might behold this wheeling universe,--
The planets gilding their ethereal horns
With sun-fire. Many a pure immortal phrase
In his own work, as I have pondered it,
Lived first upon the lips of him whose eyes
Were darkened first,--in whom, too, Milton found
That Samson Agonistes, not himself,
As many have thought, but my dear master dead.
These are a part of England's memories now,
The music blown upon her sea-bright air
When, in the year of Galileo's death,
Newton, the mightiest of the sons of light,
Was born to lift the splendour of this torch
And carry it, as I heard that Tycho said
Long since to Kepler, "carry it out of sight,
Into the great new age I must not know,
Into the great new realm I must not tread."

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