John Boyle O'Reilly
Star-Gazing - Poem by John Boyle O'Reilly
LET be what is: why should we strive and wrestle
With awkward skill against a subtle doubt?
Or pin a mystery 'neath our puny pestle,
And vainly try to bray its secret out?
What boots it me to gaze at other planets,
And speculate on sensate beings there?
It comforts not that, since the moon began its
Well-ordered course, it knew no breath of air.
There may be men and women up in Venus,
Where science finds both summer-green and snow
But are we happier asking, '' Have they seen us?
And, like us earth-men, do they yearn to know?
On greater globes than ours men may be greater.
For all things here in fair proportion run;
But will it make our poor cup any sweeter
To think a nobler Shakespeare thrills the sun?
Or, that our sun is but itself a minor,
Like this dark earth—a tenth-rate satellite,
That swings submissive round an orb diviner,
Whose day is lightning, with our day for night?
Or, past all suns, to find the awful center
Round which they meanly wind a servile road;
All, will it raise us or degrade, to enter
Where that world's Shakespeare towers almost to God?
No, no; far better, 'lords of all creation''
To strut our ant-hill, and to take our ease;
To look aloft and say, ' That constellation
Was lighted there our regal sight to please!'
We owe no thanks to so-called men of science,
Who demonstrate that earth, not sun, goes round;
'Twere better think the sun a mere appliance
To light man's villages and heat his ground.
There seems no good in asking or in humbling;
The mind incurious has the most of rest;
If we can live and laugh and pray, not grumbling,
'Tis all we can do here—and 'tis the best.
The throbbing brain will burst its tender raiment
With futile force, to see by finite light
How man's brief earning and eternal payment
Are weighed as equal in th' Infinite sight.
'Tis all in vain to struggle with abstraction—
The milky way that tempts our mental glass;
The study for mankind is earth-born action;
The highest wisdom, let the wondering pass.
The Lord knows best: He gave us thirst for learning;
And deepest knowledge of His work betrays
No thirst left waterless. Shall our soul-yearning,
Apart from all things, be a quenchless blaze?
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