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- Watchers of the Sky - 20/24 -


That knowledge drives out wonder from the world; They'll say it still, though all the dust's ablaze With miracles at their feet; while Newton's laws Foretell that knowledge one day shall be song, And those whom Truth has taken to her heart Find that it beats in music. Even this age Has glimmerings of it. Newton never saw His own full victory; but at least he knew That all the world was linked in one again; And, if men found new worlds in years to come, These too must join the universal song. That's why true poets love him; and you'll find Their love will cancel all that hate can do. They are the sentinels of the House of Fame; And that quick challenging couplet from the pen Of Alexander Pope is answer enough To all those whisperers round the outer doors. There's Addison, too. The very spirit and thought Of Newton moved to music when he wrote _The Spacious Firmament_. Some keen-eyed age to come Will say, though Newton seldom wrote a verse, That music was his own and speaks his faith.

And, last, for those who doubt his faith in God And man's immortal destiny, there remains The granite monument of his own great work, That dark cathedral of man's intellect, The vast "Principia," pointing to the skies, Wherein our intellectual king proclaimed The task of science,--through this wilderness Of Time and Space and false appearances, To make the path straight from effect to cause, Until we come to that First Cause of all, The Power, above, beyond the blind machine, The Primal Power, the originating Power, Which cannot be mechanical. He affirmed it With absolute certainty. Whence arises all This order, this unbroken chain of law, This human will, this death-defying love? Whence, but from some divine transcendent Power, Not less, but infinitely more than these, Because it is their Fountain and their Guide. Fools in their hearts have said, "Whence comes this Power, Why throw the riddle back this one stage more?" And Newton, from a height above all worlds Answered and answers still: "This universe Exists, and by that one impossible fact Declares itself a miracle; postulates An infinite Power within itself, a Whole Greater than any part, a Unity Sustaining all, binding all worlds in one. This is the mystery, palpable here and now. 'Tis not the lack of links within the chain From cause to cause, but that the chain exists. That's the unfathomable mystery, The one unquestioned miracle that we _know_, Implying every attribute of God, The ultimate, absolute, omnipresent Power, In its own being, deep and high as heaven. But men still trace the greater to the less, Account for soul with flesh and dreams with dust, Forgetting in their manifold world the One, In whom for every splendour shining here Abides an equal power behind the veil. Was the eye contrived by blindly moving atoms, Or the still-listening ear fulfilled with music By forces without knowledge of sweet sounds? Are nerves and brain so sensitively fashioned That they convey these pictures of the world Into the very substance of our life, While That from which we came, the Power that made us, Is drowned in blank unconsciousness of all? Does it not from the things we know appear That there exists a Being, incorporeal, Living, intelligent, who in infinite space, As in His infinite sensory, perceives Things in themselves, by His immediate presence Everywhere? Of which things, we see no more Than images only, flashed through nerves and brain To our small sensories? What is all science then But pure religion, seeking everywhere The true commandments, and through many forms The eternal power that binds all worlds in one? It is man's age-long struggle to draw near His Maker, learn His thoughts, discern His law,-- A boundless task, in whose infinitude, As in the unfolding light and law of love. Abides our hope, and our eternal joy. I know not how my work may seem to others--" So wrote our mightiest mind--"But to myself I seem a child that wandering all day long Upon the sea-shore, gathers here a shell, And there a pebble, coloured by the wave, While the great ocean of truth, from sky to sky Stretches before him, boundless, unexplored."

He has explored it now, and needs of me Neither defence nor tribute. His own work Remains his monument He rose at last so near The Power divine that none can nearer go; None in this age! To carry on his fire We must await a mightier age to come.

VI

WILLIAM HERSCHEL CONDUCTS

_Was it a dream?--that crowded concert-room In Bath; that sea of ruffles and laced coats; And William Herschel, in his powdered wig, Waiting upon the platform, to conduct His choir and Linley's orchestra? He stood Tapping his music-rest, lost in his own thoughts And (did I hear or dream them?) all were mine:_

My periwig's askew, my ruffle stained With grease from my new telescope! Ach, to-morrow How Caroline will be vexed, although she grows Almost as bad as I, who cannot leave My work-shop for one evening. I must give One last recital at St. Margaret's, And then--farewell to music. Who can lead Two lives at once? Yet--it has taught me much, Thrown curious lights upon our world, to pass From one life to another. Much that I took For substance turns to shadow. I shall see No throngs like this again; wring no more praise Out of their hearts; forego that instant joy --Let those who have not known it count it vain-- When human souls at once respond to yours. Here, on the brink of fortune and of fame, As men account these things, the moment comes When I must choose between them and the stars; And I have chosen. Handel, good old friend, We part to-night. Hereafter, I must watch That other wand, to which the worlds keep time.

What has decided me? That marvelous night When--ah, how difficult it will be to guide, With all these wonders whirling through my brain!-- After a Pump-room concert I came home Hot-foot, out of the fluttering sea of fans, Coquelicot-ribboned belles and periwigged beaux, To my Newtonian telescope. The design Was his; but more than half the joy my own, Because it was the work of my own hand, A new one, with an eye six inches wide, Better than even the best that Newton made. Then, as I turned it on the _Gemini_, And the deep stillness of those constant lights, Castor and Pollux, lucid pilot-stars, Began to calm the fever of my blood, I saw, O, first of all mankind I saw The disk of my new planet gliding there Beyond our tumults, in that realm of peace.

What will they christen it? Ach--not _Herschel_, no! Nor _Georgium Sidus_, as I once proposed; Although he scarce could lose it, as he lost That world in 'seventy-six. Indeed, so far From trying to tax it, he has granted me How much?--two hundred golden pounds a year, In the great name of science,--half the cost Of one state-coach, with all those worlds to win! Well--well--we must be grateful. This mad king Has done far more than all the worldly-wise, Who'll charge even this to madness. I believe One day he'll have me pardoned for that...crime, When I escaped--deserted, some would say-- From those drill-sergeants in my native land; Deserted drill for music, as I now Desert my music for the orchestral spheres. No. This new planet is only new to man. His majesty has done much. Yet, as my friend Declared last night, "Never did monarch buy Honour so cheaply"; and--he has not bought it. I think that it should bear some ancient name, And wear it like a crown; some deep, dark name, Like _Uranus_, known to remoter gods.

How strange it seems--this buzzing concert-room! There's Doctor Burney bowing and, behind him, His fox-eyed daughter Fanny. Is it a dream, These crowding midgets, dense as clustering bees


Watchers of the Sky - 20/24

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