Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

(1834-1894 / England)

The Stars - Poem by Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

Solemnly purple night reigns over me,
With all the solemn glory of her stars.
Sublime star-worlds, who never have disdain'd
To be my friends, consolers, counsellors,
Guiding faint footfalls of a mortal man!
How often, when the moon among your lights
Glided, with her wan face beholding day;
A slim canoe, carven from tender pearl,
Confused to many crescents as I gaze;
Noting the very punctual moment, I
Besought my faithful sextant to reveal
What interval of cavernous clear gloom
Lay now between her orb and one of you!
I found how high above your brilliant
Image in my small pool of mercury
Ye rose in heaven on my meridian.
So, in the least conjectured realm of all
These pilgrim feet have found, my whereabout
On this our Earth discovering I record.
But the barbarians, when they saw me place
And note the readings of mine instrument,
Deemed me magician; some beneath their breath,
Viewing my quadrant's ivory curvature,
Whisper'd: 'The Son of God hath come to us;
And lo! the moon was underneath his arm!
He holdeth strange communion with stars.'

Yours are fair faces of familiar friends
To the lone traveller in a lonely land,
Ye constellations, slowly journeying west!
And some of you, my best beloved at home
May not behold; but some of you, with me,
Their eyes and mine may gaze upon together.
Glorious worlds, unknown to mortal men,
My spirit yearns to you from hollow orbs!
Soon shall I slake my longing all divine
Even in you, with higher powers than these
Of this poor worn-out body!
Now my soul
Seeks those immortals, who have passed away
From earth to yonder infinite star-worlds:
World within world, sun, planet, comet, moon,
All in their order and their own degree,
One crimson, and one golden, and one green,
Harmonious hearing a low voice of Love!
Star of the Nile! resplendent Sirius!
Whom here men name 'Drawer of all the Night!'
Planet of Love! Ntanda,* fair first born
Of evening, tremulous dew in a sweet rose!
(She is so large, and clear, she sheds a shadow):
Aldebaran, Orion, Fomalhaut,
Altair, Canopus, and the Southern Cross!

Now fades yon pyramid of nebulous light
Zodiacal, that, paling as it soars,
Tinges mild splendour of the Milky Way
A delicate orange; but Magellan's clouds
Revolve around our starless Southern Pole.
And all is silence - only a night air
Rustles a palm, dreaming among the stars,
From whose dim languorous long fronds they rise,
Slow disentangling their celestial gleam.
No human sound disturbs the solitude,
Only a cry of some far florican,
A chirping cricket in the herb afar,
Or doleful forest-muffled living thing.
Also I hear a distant ghostly voice
Of plangent surf, alternately resounding
And ceasing, on wild Tanganika's shore.
But a low thunder booms at intervals.
Some say it is a surge, wandering in caves
Unfathomable of a mighty mountain range,
For off to westward, nearer Liembâ.
And some affirm a river under earth
Rushes in yonder mountains of Kabongo,
Breathing a strange low thunder on the wind. . . .
England! my children! shall I see you once
Again before I perish? - nay the end
Is very near: here I shall die alone:
I am weary, worn, deserted, destitute!

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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