The Astronomical Society of the Toms River Area

Great Writing That Gazes Skyward
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Author:  BetaDraconis [ Wed Dec 09, 2015 5:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

On Astronomical Literature:

Unlike other sciences whose secrets are hidden within breathing bodies or mechanized forms, astronomy is open to all eyes. As children we reach for those white specks patterned against a blue-black canvas. We cannot believe that the stars are really that far. Yet the appeal and mystery of the heavens never truly fades. Although astronomy is a precise, meticulous science, it is also part fiction, poetry, philosophy, and theology. Astronomers, like writers, return anew to ancient canvases in hopes of that one unusual discovery. Here are nine such works of literature that gaze skyward.

Nick Ripatrazone shares nine examples of literature centered around astronomy. A few are science fiction. I'm sure most at ASTRA would enjoy these.

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Wed Dec 09, 2015 5:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

The More Loving One, by W.H. Auden

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us, we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Wed Dec 09, 2015 5:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

Dangerous Astronomy, by Sherman Alexie

I wanted to walk outside and praise the stars,
But David, my baby son, coughed and coughed.
His comfort was more important than the stars

So I comforted and kissed him in his dark
Bedroom, but my comfort was not enough.
His mother was more important than the stars

So he cried for her breast and milk. It’s hard
For fathers to compete with mothers’ love.
In the dark, mothers illuminate like the stars!

Dull and jealous, I was the smallest part
Of the whole. I know this is stupid stuff
But I felt less important than the farthest star

As my wife fed my son in the hungry dark.
How can a father resent his son and his son’s love?
Was my comfort more important than the stars?

A selfish father, I wanted to pull apart
My comfortable wife and son. Forgive me, Rough
God, because I walked outside and praised the stars,
And thought I was more important than the stars.

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Wed Dec 09, 2015 5:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

The Old Astronomer To His Pupil, by Sarah Williams

Reach me down my Tycho Brahé, – 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 wiles;
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.

What, my boy, you are not weeping? You should save your eyes for sight;
You will need them, mine observer, yet for many another night.
I leave none but you, my pupil, unto whom my plans are known.
You “have none but me,” you murmur, and I “leave you quite alone”?

Well then, kiss me, – since my mother left her blessing on my brow,
There has been a something wanting in my nature until now;
I can dimly comprehend it, – that I might have been more kind,
Might have cherished you more wisely, as the one I leave behind.

I “have never failed in kindness”? No, we lived too high for strife,–
Calmest coldness was the error which has crept into our life;
But your spirit is untainted, I can dedicate you still
To the service of our science: you will further it? you will!

There are certain calculations I should like to make with you,
To be sure that your deductions will be logical and true;
And remember, “Patience, Patience,” is the watchword of a sage,
Not to-day nor yet to-morrow can complete a perfect age.

I have sown, like Tycho Brahé, that a greater man may reap;
But if none should do my reaping, 'twill disturb me in my sleep
So be careful and be faithful, though, like me, you leave no name;
See, my boy, that nothing turn you to the mere pursuit of fame.

I must say Good-bye, my pupil, for I cannot longer speak;
Draw the curtain back for Venus, ere my vision grows too weak:
It is strange the pearly planet should look red as fiery Mars,–
God will mercifully guide me on my way amongst the stars.

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Wed Dec 09, 2015 5:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

The Star-Splitter, by Robert Frost

‘You know Orion always comes up sideways.
Throwing a leg up over our fence of mountains,
And rising on his hands, he looks in on me
Busy outdoors by lantern-light with something
I should have done by daylight, and indeed,
After the ground is frozen, I should have done
Before it froze, and a gust flings a handful
Of waste leaves at my smoky lantern chimney
To make fun of my way of doing things,
Or else fun of Orion’s having caught me.
Has a man, I should like to ask, no rights
These forces are obliged to pay respect to?’
So Brad McLaughlin mingled reckless talk
Of heavenly stars with hugger-mugger farming,
Till having failed at hugger-mugger farming
He burned his house down for the fire insurance
And spent the proceeds on a telescope
To satisfy a lifelong curiosity
About our place among the infinities.

‘What do you want with one of those blame things?’
I asked him well beforehand. ‘Don’t you get one!’

‘Don’t call it blamed; there isn’t anything
More blameless in the sense of being less
A weapon in our human fight,’ he said.
‘I’ll have one if I sell my farm to buy it.’
There where he moved the rocks to plow the ground
And plowed between the rocks he couldn’t move,
Few farms changed hands; so rather than spend years
Trying to sell his farm and then not selling,
He burned his house down for the fire insurance
And bought the telescope with what it came to.
He had been heard to say by several:
‘The best thing that we’re put here for’s to see;
The strongest thing that’s given us to see with’s
A telescope. Someone in every town
Seems to me owes it to the town to keep one.
In Littleton it might as well be me.’
After such loose talk it was no surprise
When he did what he did and burned his house down.

Mean laughter went about the town that day
To let him know we weren’t the least imposed on,
And he could wait—we’d see to him tomorrow.
But the first thing next morning we reflected
If one by one we counted people out
For the least sin, it wouldn’t take us long
To get so we had no one left to live with.
For to be social is to be forgiving.
Our thief, the one who does our stealing from us,
We don’t cut off from coming to church suppers,
But what we miss we go to him and ask for.
He promptly gives it back, that is if still
Uneaten, unworn out, or undisposed of.
It wouldn’t do to be too hard on Brad
About his telescope. Beyond the age
Of being given one for Christmas gift,
He had to take the best way he knew how
To find himself in one. Well, all we said was
He took a strange thing to be roguish over.
Some sympathy was wasted on the house,
A good old-timer dating back along;
But a house isn’t sentient; the house
Didn’t feel anything. And if it did,
Why not regard it as a sacrifice,
And an old-fashioned sacrifice by fire,
Instead of a new-fashioned one at auction?

Out of a house and so out of a farm
At one stroke (of a match), Brad had to turn
To earn a living on the Concord railroad,
As under-ticket-agent at a station
Where his job, when he wasn’t selling tickets,
Was setting out, up track and down, not plants
As on a farm, but planets, evening stars
That varied in their hue from red to green.

He got a good glass for six hundred dollars.
His new job gave him leisure for stargazing.
Often he bid me come and have a look
Up the brass barrel, velvet black inside,
At a star quaking in the other end.
I recollect a night of broken clouds
And underfoot snow melted down to ice,
And melting further in the wind to mud.
Bradford and I had out the telescope.
We spread our two legs as we spread its three,
Pointed our thoughts the way we pointed it,
And standing at our leisure till the day broke,
Said some of the best things we ever said.
That telescope was christened the Star-Splitter,
Because it didn’t do a thing but split
A star in two or three, the way you split
A globule of quicksilver in your hand
With one stroke of your finger in the middle.
It’s a star-splitter if there ever was one,
And ought to do some good if splitting stars
‘Sa thing to be compared with splitting wood.

We’ve looked and looked, but after all where are we?
Do we know any better where we are,
And how it stands between the night tonight
And a man with a smoky lantern chimney?
How different from the way it ever stood?

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Wed Dec 09, 2015 5:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

Astronomy Lesson, by Alan Shapiro

The two boys lean out on the railing
of the front porch, looking up.
Behind them they can hear their mother
in one room watching “Name That Tune,”
their father in another watching
a Walter Cronkite Special, the TVs
turned up high and higher till they
each can’t hear the other’s show.
The older boy is saying that no matter
how many stars you counted there were
always more stars beyond them
and beyond the stars black space
going on forever in all directions,
so that even if you flew up
millions and millions of years
you’d be no closer to the end
of it than they were now
here on the porch on Tuesday night
in the middle of summer.
The younger boy can think somehow
only of his mother’s closet,
how he likes to crawl in back
behind the heavy drapery
of shirts, nightgowns and dresses,
into the sheer black where
no matter how close he holds
his hand up to his face
there’s no hand ever, no
face to hold it to.

A woman from another street
is calling to her stray cat or dog,
clapping and whistling it in,
and farther away deep in the city
sirens now and again
veer in and out of hearing.

The boys edge closer, shoulder
to shoulder now, sad Ptolemies,
the older looking up, the younger
as he thinks back straight ahead
into the black leaves of the maple
where the street lights flicker
like another watery skein of stars.
“Name That Tune” and Walter Cronkite
struggle like rough water
to rise above each other.
And the woman now comes walking
in a nightgown down the middle
of the street, clapping and
whistling, while the older boy
goes on about what light years
are, and solar winds, black holes,
and how the sun is cooling
and what will happen to
them all when it is cold.

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Wed Dec 09, 2015 5:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

When I Heard The Learn'd Astronomer, by Walt Whitman

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

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Wed Jan 27, 2016 11:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

More literary and poetic approaches to astronomy.

A Cosmic Evaluation Of The Seven Romantics ... romantics/

The Romantics period was led by seven poetic pioneers. Percy Shelley, John Keats, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Samuel Coleridge, William Blake, and Robert Burns each gave us a new perspective into the natural world in addition to creating this new form of poetry. These seven poets each share characteristics in their writing similar to that of the characteristics of seven distinctive astronomical objects in various different ways.

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Mon Jul 11, 2016 7:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

In my thread about 19th Century Astronomical Drawings (viewtopic.php?f=3&t=959) , the article's author mentions Emma Converse. Like Carl Sagan, she popularized astronomy with her writing.

Unsurprisingly, Brainpickings also has an article covering her work.

The Lost Art of Astropoetics: An 1881 Cosmic Masterpiece by the Forgotten Woman Who Popularized Astronomy ... -sky-1881/

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Thu May 04, 2017 6:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

The Cosmology of Poe ... -cosmology

Drawing on intuition, Edgar Allan Poe offered some remarkably prescient ideas about the universe in his poem 'Eureka'

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Sat Jul 01, 2017 6:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

"We are the universe observing itself"

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Author:  BetaDraconis [ Tue Jul 11, 2017 7:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

John Quincy Adams wrote a sonnet about eclipses in 1846.

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Author:  BetaDraconis [ Thu Aug 03, 2017 4:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

Not writing, just street art.

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Author:  BetaDraconis [ Thu Aug 24, 2017 2:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

Though its celestial ceiling is impressive, the true star is the vast collection of French books.

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Sun Sep 03, 2017 4:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

"When one gets quiet, then something wakes up inside one, something happy and quiet like the stars."

― W. B. Yeats

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Author:  BetaDraconis [ Sat Sep 23, 2017 7:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

We should buy this building as a retirement home for ASTRA members with Matthew's money ;)

please note the winky emoticon

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Author:  BetaDraconis [ Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

Your message contains too few characters.

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Author:  BetaDraconis [ Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

"If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years, how man would marvel and stare"

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward


bloom_county.jpg [ 354.3 KiB | Viewed 29836 times ]

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

Aha, here's the full Ralph Waldo Emerson quote!

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Sat Oct 14, 2017 6:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

Rare Meteor Event Inspired Walt Whitman ... -29643165/

YEAR of meteors! brooding year!
I would bind in words retrospective, some of your deeds and signs;
I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad;
I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair, mounted the scaffold in Virginia;
(I was at hand—silent I stood, with teeth shut close—I watch’d; 5
I stood very near you, old man, when cool and indifferent, but trembling with age and your unheal’d wounds, you mounted the scaffold;)
—I would sing in my copious song your census returns of The States,
The tables of population and products—I would sing of your ships and their cargoes,
The proud black ships of Manhattan, arriving, some fill’d with immigrants, some from the isthmus with cargoes of gold;
Songs thereof would I sing—to all that hitherward comes would I welcome give; 10
And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you from me, sweet boy of England!
Remember you surging Manhattan’s crowds, as you pass’d with your cortege of nobles?
There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with attachment;
I know not why, but I loved you... (and so go forth little song,
Far over sea speed like an arrow, carrying my love all folded, 15
And find in his palace the youth I love, and drop these lines at his feet;)
—Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she swam up my bay,
Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my bay, she was 600 feet long,
Her, moving swiftly, surrounded by myriads of small craft, I forget not to sing;
—Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north, flaring in heaven; 20
Nor the strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and clear, shooting over our heads,
(A moment, a moment long, it sail’d its balls of unearthly light over our heads,
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
—Of such, and fitful as they, I sing—with gleams from them would I gleam and patch these chants;
Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good! year of forebodings! year of the youth I love! 25
Year of comets and meteors transient and strange!—lo! even here, one equally transient and strange!
As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone, what is this book,
What am I myself but one of your meteors?

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Wed Nov 15, 2017 9:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

Voyage au planete Jupiter

Video, obviously.

The King and his official astronomer are alone in the study viewing the heavenly bodies through the monstrous telescope. They go out on the balcony and the gay old ruler is much absorbed in the phenomenon, and spends some time in studying the stars and planets. The evening has been well spent with the many mysteries which have made such a deep impression upon the King's mind that they are still with him in his dreams. Upon retiring for the night he has a wonderful nightmare, in which he imagines that he is climbing up a long ladder to the planet Jupiter. He passes all the other planets and receives an official salute from each one in honor of his exalted position upon the earth. Finally arriving at Jupiter, he is admitted to the palace of the King, where he is granted an audience with the high potentate. They become so effusive in their welcome and so strenuous in their mode of entertaining that he wishes to be back on earth once more. Finally, after witnessing all that is to be seen, he expresses a desire to return home, so he is picked up bodily and thrown off of the planet, but luckily for him he grabs the ladder and starts to descend. As he is passing Mercury, someone cuts the ladder, his royal highness is precipitated through the air, where he lands with an awful bump on earth. And then he woke up, only to find himself groveling on the floor of his room.

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

The romantic connection between poetry and our skies ... forecasts/

Author:  BetaDraconis [ Sat Nov 25, 2017 6:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

Galaxy Cat!

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Author:  BetaDraconis [ Mon Dec 04, 2017 7:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Great Writing That Gazes Skyward

Gustave Doré's depictions of the moon.

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moonchariot.jpg [ 132.89 KiB | Viewed 29065 times ]

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