Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Poetic Inspiration: I have loved the stars too fondly

Today I'm going to share with you a really interesting and inspiring poem by Sarah Williams. I think it's pretty well known in North America, but I first heard about it when I heard the last line (above) which is just perfect for gothy types, quoted by Mistress Margot Meanie.

Here, for your delight, is the poem in full*:

The Old Astronomer to His Pupil

Reach me down my Tycho Brahe, I would know him when we meet,
When I share my later science, sitting humbly at his feet;
He may know the law of all things, yet be ignorant of how
We are working to completion, working on from then to now.

Pray remember that I leave you all my theory complete,
Lacking only certain data for your adding, as is meet,
And remember men will scorn it, 'tis original and true,
And the obloquy of newness may fall bitterly on you.

But, my pupil, as my pupil you have learned the worth of scorn,
You have laughed with me at pity, we have joyed to be forlorn,
What for us are all distractions of men's fellowship and smiles;
What for us the Goddess Pleasure with her meretricious smiles!

You may tell that German College that their honor comes too late,
But they must not waste repentance on the grizzly savant's fate.
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

     Sarah Williams

Isn't that last line just fabulous? Anyway, I've been doing a bit of research for you and it turns out that Tycho Brahe was a Danish nobleman, astronomer and writer known for his accurate and comprehensive observations... and his metal nose (he lost he first nose in a duel!).

I also looked up obloquy which is a gorgeous word meaning strong public condemnation, which in a world with Trump, Johnson, Jeremy Hunt (James Blunt must be happy about his existence) and so many others in politics should surely be getting more use.

I love the discussion of the difficulty of bringing new things - nobody welcomes the new, and it's hard to be the person in the vanguard, but there must always be someone leading the way. I am tempted to try rewriting this from the point of view of gender politics, because there's always someone leading the change, but then a new issue to work on. 

In the poem the astronomer hopes that his reward for this work will be telling his hugely admired predecessor how he's furthered things, and I wonder how that conversation would go. Would Tycho be thankful? Would he think the astronomer's work unimportant, irrelevant even.

Some of the people who've made huge advances in women's rights, and in LGBTQI rights (and I think it likely goes for all improvements), once they've achieved what they wanted will focus on telling people what they've done, rather than learning from those who've been able to grow the seeds they've sown, and can see which way the path is to move forward, and so you get difficult situations where people like Germaine Greer condemn trans people's involvement in the feminist movement. She was part of the movement that made it possible for us to be trans people's allies, and for them to be our allies. We climb the mountain together. Climbing over each other will not get us there.

Anyhoo... it is of course easier to suffer the condemnation of others when you've got someone at your side telling you you're right, and I wonder how the pupil will get on once the astronomer has passed on. Will she get a pupil in her turn?

I do hope that she gets over the astronomer's workaholism and finds some distraction in men's fellowship and smiles and with the Goddess Pleasure (who also smiles, but there's got to be a flaw or it would be too perfect). Or takes up quilting perhaps. All work and no play make pupils dull indeed.

The last line was used as the epitaph for an astronomer couple, who were buried at an observatory, and that's just gorgeous. But we can't let them keep it all to themselves, so I've found some wonderful uses of the line in gorgeous things you can buy now on Etsy:

Amazing poster shipping from Canada.
Etsy store: hairbrainedschemes

I love this bracelet, shipping from the US
Etsy store: thewinsomewordsmith
This poster is a cheap as chips download from England
Etsy store: PeppermintFolly
Finally, because I can't go past a notebook and this is gorgeous,shipping from the US.
Etsy store: InkiAndIndigo

*poem taken from this website, taken in turn from from Best Loved Poems of the American People, Editor: Hazel Felleman, Garden City Publishing Co, Garden City NY: 1936, pp. 613-614.

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