Subscribe: by Email | in Reader

The Old Astronomer -- Sarah Williams

(Poem #1769) The Old Astronomer
 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 till 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 learnt 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 wiles?

 You may tell that German college that their honour 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 truly 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 sworn, like Tycho Brahe, 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.
-- Sarah Williams
      (Published 1868)

Note: Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) has a strong claim to the title "Father of
Modern Astronomy" for his insistence on systematic observation.

The best word I can find to describe today's poem is "moving". Williams's
first-person narrator is sensitively and convincingly portrayed; the
astronomer's life, and his relationship with his pupil, shine through with
warmth and gentleness.

While the poem is uneven in places, it is never jarring, and the good bits
are very good indeed - in particular, the couplet

 Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
 I have loved the stars too truly to be fearful of the night.

has helped ensure its immortality. I was also strongly reminded of Kipling's
"The Explorer", a similar, regretless look back at a life that eschewed
"fellowship and smiles" and the pursuit of fame in favour of a lonely
impulse of delight.

And, when all is said and done, it was a real pleasure to read a poem that
neither deified nor vilified scientists (and I've seen too many of both),
but sought to present a genuinely sympathetic and human view of its subject.



Anthologised in "Best Loved Poems of the American People", Hazel Felleman, ed.
Garden City Publishing Co., Garden City NY: 1936, pp. 613-614

John and Proebe Brashear, a couple of astronomers buried at Alleghany
Observatory, famously have a quote from the poem as their epitaph:
  "We have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night."


Biography of Williams:
  Sarah Williams (1837-1868)

Variations abound; I am indebted to the stumpers-l archive for the accurate
text of the poem:
[broken link]

From the fifteen-minutes-of-fame department, I was prompted to run this poem
after it was quoted in Irregular Webcomic:

53 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

viagra 100mg said...

nice blog.. very nice to know about this topic..

Anonymous said...

Poignant and sensitive poem..

Anonymous said...

I delight in, cause I discovered just what I used to be having a
look for. You have ended my four day lengthy hunt!
God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

Feel free to surf to my page: Louis Vuitton Bags

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, what a website it is! This web site gives valuable
information to us, keep it up.

Here is my weblog - Louis Vuitton Pas Cher

Anonymous said...

Wow, marvelous blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?

you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is magnificent, let alone the content!

Feel free to surf to my weblog: Louis Vuitton Purses

Anonymous said...

I'll right away seize your rss as I can not to find your email subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you've any?
Please let me recognise so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

Here is my web blog :: Chaussure Air Jordan

Anonymous said...

Excellent beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend your website,
how can i subscribe for a blog website? The account aided me a acceptable deal.
I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright
clear concept

Here is my site ... Cheap Louis Vuitton Bags

Anonymous said...

I read this piece of writing completely on the topic of the comparison of hottest and earlier technologies, it's awesome article.

My page :: Cheap NFL Jerseys

Anonymous said...

Greetings! I know this is somewhat off topic
but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this website?
I'm getting tired of Wordpress because I've had problems with hackers and
I'm looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

Also visit my homepage; Chaussure De Foot

Anonymous said...

Howdy! I know this is kinda off topic however , I'd figured I'd ask.

Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing
a blog post or vice-versa? My site discusses a lot of the same topics as
yours and I believe we could greatly benefit from each other.

If you might be interested feel free to shoot me an email.
I look forward to hearing from you! Great blog by the way!

Visit my webpage Michael Kors

Anonymous said...

Magnificent web site. Plenty of helpful info here.
I'm sending it to several pals ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks to your effort!

Here is my webpage - Sac Guess Pas Cher

Anonymous said...

It's appropriate time to make some plans for the longer term and it's time to be happy.
I have read this put up and if I could I desire to
counsel you few attention-grabbing issues or
advice. Maybe you can write next articles regarding this
article. I desire to read more issues approximately it!

Here is my website;

Anonymous said...

Hi there friends, pleasant piece of writing and fastidious arguments commented at this place, I am
genuinely enjoying by these.

my homepage ::

Anonymous said...

Your style is really unique in comparison to other people I have read stuff from.
Many thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I'll just book mark this page.

Also visit my weblog - Cheap NFL Jerseys

Anonymous said...

My brother recommended I might like this blog. He used to be totally right.
This put up actually made my day. You can not imagine simply
how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

Also visit my homepage Abercrombie France

Anonymous said...

Appreciate this post. Will try it out.

Also visit my homepage :: Air Max

Anonymous said...

These are in fact impressive ideas in on the topic
of blogging. You have touched some pleasant things here.

Any way keep up wrinting.

My weblog ::

Anonymous said...

Really when someone doesn't be aware of afterward its up to other viewers that they will assist, so here it occurs.

Here is my webpage ... Tory Burch Flats

Anonymous said...

It's amazing to pay a quick visit this web site and reading the views of all colleagues about this piece of writing, while I am also keen of getting familiarity.

Have a look at my web site :: Louis Vuitton Pas Cher

Unknown said...

Bende uzun zamandır porno izleyen bir tük kullanıcısı olarak sizin sitenize yorum atma gereği duydum.Porno izlemek bana büyük haz veriyor çok mutlu oluyorum.Tercih ettiğim site ise

porno seyret

Unknown said...

Hi there. I really appreciate the points you made. I don't think I've actually thought about it in that way. I can really appreciate how you approached the subject matter and what you said really gave me a new perspective. Thanks for taking the time to write this all out.
Your opinion this blog:

Unknown said...

JSolusi yang tepat untuk mengobati penyakit wasir tanpa harus operasi, menggunakan obat wasir  Paling ampuh dari De Nature dan terbaik ada hanya di untuk mendapatkan informasi yang lebih jelas mengenai pengobatan wasir silahkan kontak langsung di nomer 0852 808 77 999 atau 0859 7373 5656 Bagaimana mengobati Ambeien itu sendiri. pengobatan yang terbaik untuk Ambeien adalah dari luar dan dalam sehingga Ambeien benar benar tuntas dan tidak akan kambuh lagi. obat Ambeien terbaik "Ambeclear dari De Nature" Adalah obat Ambeien herbal yang memang terbaik untuk mengobati Ambeien, dan sudah terdaftar di badan obat dan makanan (BPOM) dengan nomer registrasi POM TR: 133 374 041. terbuat dari bahan alami antara lain terdiri Daung Ungu, Mahkota Dewa dan Kunyit Putih.

Anonymous said...

Penyakit ini umumnya muncul karena penderita mengejan terlalu keras pada saat buang air besar. Dengan mengejan terlalu keras, maka pembuluh darah di sekitar anus dapat melebar dan pecah menimbulkan infeksi dan pembengkakan yang berakhir pada masalah wasir atau ambeien tersebut.

obar herbal manjur alami said...

Cegah Wasir ambeien anda bertambah parah dan segera untuk melakukan pengobatan yang cepat dan tepat dengan obat terbaik apabila sobat sedang mencari obat Ambeien yang ampuh dan cepat sobat sedang berada di web yang tepat karena kami ini menjual obat Ambeien yang aman cepat dan ampuh segera kontak kami di 0823 2528 0340

Geral said...

Thanks for information...

Distributor Baja Ringan said...

Pusaka Abadi is a company engaged in the Installation and Distributor Lightweight Steel Roof Tile. we sell BUILDING MATERIALS ready to serve all your needs ..

darylharper said...

Home security camera systems
They help in anticipating wrongdoing, for example, robbery, murder, and so forth from occurring

Hair Fall Treatment said...

Hair Fall Treatment provides Permanent Hair Patch in Delhi. We have long series of Quality Hair Patches. To Book Your Service 📞+91-9250504810, Visit for more information -

Post a Comment