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- Watchers of the Sky - 6/24 -


He showed Quivering with eagerness, his first rude plan For that great quadrant,--not the wooden toy Of old Scultetus, but a kingly weapon, Huge as a Roman battering-ram, and fine In its divisions as any goldsmith's work. "It could be built," said Tycho, "but the cost Would buy a dozen culverin for your wars." Then Hainzel, fired by Tycho's burning brain, Answered, "We'll make it We've a war to wage On Chaos, and his kingdoms of the night." They chose the cunningest artists of the town, Clock-makers, jewellers, carpenters, and smiths, And, setting them all afire with Tycho's dream, Within a month his dream was oak and brass. Its beams were fourteen cubits, solid oak, Banded with iron. Its arch was polished brass Whereon five thousand exquisite divisions Were marked to show the minutes of degrees.

So huge and heavy it was, a score of men, Could hardly drag and fix it to its place In Hainzel's garden. Many a shining night, Tycho and Hainzel, out of that maze of flowers, Charted the stars, discovering point by point, How all the records erred, until the fame Of this new master, hovering above the schools Like a strange hawk, threatened the creeping dreams Of all the Aristotelians, and began To set their mouse-holes twittering "Tycho Brahe!"

Then Tycho Brahe came home, to find Christine. Up to that whispering glade of ferns he sped, At the first wink of Hesperus. He stood In shadow, under the darkest pine, to hide The little golden mask upon his face. He wondered, will she shrink from me in fear Or loathing? Will she even come at all? And, as he wondered, like a light she moved Before him. "Is it you?"-- "Christine! Christine," He whispered, "It is I, the mountebank, Playing a jest upon you. It's only a mask! Do not be frightened. I am here behind it."

Her red lips parted, and between them shone, The little teeth like white pomegranate seeds. He saw her frightened eyes. Then, with a cry, Her arms went round him, and her eyelids closed. Lying against his heart, she set her lips Against his lips, and claimed him for her own.

IV

One frosty night, as Tycho bent his way Home to the dark old abbey, he upraised His eyes, and saw a portent in the sky. There, in its most familiar patch of blue, Where Cassiopeia's five-fold glory burned, An unknown brilliance quivered, a huge star Unseen before, a strange new visitant To heavens unchangeable, as the world believed, Since the creation. Could new stars be born? Night after night he watched that miracle Growing and changing colour as it grew; White at the first, and large as Jupiter; And, in the third month, yellow, and larger yet; Red in the fifth month, like Aldebaran, And larger even than Lyra. In the seventh, Bluish like Saturn; whence it dulled and dwined Little by little, till after eight months more Into the dark abysmal blue of night, Whence it arose, the wonder died away. But, while it blazed above him, Tycho brought Those delicate records of two hundred nights To Copenhagen. There, in his golden mask, At supper with Pratensis, who believed Only what old books told him, Tycho met Dancey, the French Ambassador, rainbow-gay In satin hose and doublet, supple and thin, Brown-eyed, and bearded with a soft black tuft Neat as a blackbird's wing,--a spirit as keen And swift as France on all the starry trails Of thought. He saw the deep and simple fire, The mystery of all genius in those eyes Above that golden wizard. Tycho raised His wine-cup, brimming--they thought--with purple dreams; And bade them drink to their triumphant Queen Of all the Muses, to their Lady of Light Urania, and the great new star. They laughed, Thinking the young astrologer's golden mask Hid a sardonic jest. "The skies are clear," Said Tycho Brahe, "and we have eyes to see. Put out your candles. Open those windows there!" The colder darkness breathed upon their brows, And Tycho pointed, into the deep blue night. There, in their most immutable height of heaven, In _ipso caelo_, in the ethereal realm, Beyond all planets, red as Mars it burned, The one impossible glory. "But it's true!" Pratensis gasped; then, clutching the first straw, "Now I recall how Pliny the Elder said, Hipparchus also saw a strange new star, Not where the comets, not where the _Rosae_ bloom And fade, but in that solid crystal sphere Where nothing changes." Tycho smiled, and showed The record of his watchings. "But the world Must know all this," cried Dancey. "You must print it." "Print it?" said Tycho, turning that golden mask On both his friends. "Could I, a noble, print This trafficking with Urania in a book? They'd hound me out of Denmark! This disgrace Of work, with hands or brain, no matter why, No matter how, in one who ought to dwell Fixed to the solid upper sphere, my friends, Would never be forgiven." Dancey stared In mute amazement, but that mask of gold Outstared him, sphinx-like, and inscrutable.

Soon through all Europe, like the blinded moths, Roused by a lantern in old palaces Among the mouldering tapestries of thought, Weird fables woke and fluttered to and fro, And wild-eyed sages hunted them for truth. The Italian, Frangipani, thought the star The lost Electra, that had left her throne Among the Pleiads, and plunged into the night Like a veiled mourner, when Troy town was burned. The German painter, Busch, of Erfurt, wrote, "It was a comet, made of mortal sins; A poisonous mist, touched by the wrath of God To fire; from which there would descend on earth All manner of evil--plagues and sudden death, Frenchmen and famine." Preachers thumped and raved. Theodore Beza in Calvin's pulpit tore His grim black gown, and vowed it was the Star That led the Magi. It had now returned To mark the world's end and the Judgment Day. Then, in this hubbub, Dancey told the king Of Denmark, "There is one who knows the truth-- Your subject Tycho Brahe, who, night by night, Watched and recorded all that truth could see. It would bring honour to all Denmark, sire, If Tycho could forget his rank awhile, And print these great discoveries in a book, For all the world to read." So Tycho Brahe Received a letter in the king's own hand, Urging him, "Truth is the one pure fountain-head Of all nobility. Pray forget your rank." His noble kinsmen echoed, "If you wish To please His Majesty and ourselves, forget Your rank." "I will," said Tycho Brahe; "Your reasoning has convinced me. I will print My book, '_De Nova Stella._' And to prove All you have said concerning temporal rank And this eternal truth you love so well, I marry, to-day,"--they foamed, but all their mouths Were stopped and stuffed and sealed with their own words,-- "I marry to-day my own true love, Christine."

V

They thought him a magician, Tycho Brahe. Perhaps he was. There's magic all around us In rocks and trees, and in the minds of men, Deep hidden springs of magic. He that strikes The rock aright, may find them where he will.

And Tycho tasted happiness in his hour. There was a prince in Denmark in those days; And, when he heard how other kings desired The secrets of this new astrology, He said, "This man, in after years, will bring Glory to Denmark, honour to her prince. He is a Dane. Give him this isle of Wheen,


Watchers of the Sky - 6/24

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