Astronomical Poetry

One of the message boards I frequent has this quaint little haiku thread, and I finally tried it out for myself. It's actually quite easy, and since I was at our observatory waiting for the moon to get high enough, I started thinking up some astronomy-related ones.

What, you ask, is Haiku? Well, if you don't know, it's a seventeen-syllable, non rhyming poem with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third.


The dome opens to the stars
Observing all night.
Where all the stars look the same
Out of focus blobs.
Oh Alberio
A blue and gold double star
Michele's favorite.
The star Betelgeuse
Shining bright in Orion
When will it explode?
A solar eclipse
The moon's shadow touches Earth
Dragon eats the sun.
A lunar eclipse
The moon in the Earth's shadow
Dark copper color.
Lights in the north sky
Aurora Borealis
Quite spectacular.
Meteor shower
Streaks of light in the night sky
Exploding bolides.

What we have learned
Is like a handful of earth
What we have yet to learn
Is like the whole world.


The stars are suspended on strings that
are pulled up in the daytime and let down
at night.

-Babylonian Mythology, 3000 B.C.

Auguries of Innocence

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

-William Blake (1709-1784)

With vast convolutions Draco holds
Th' ecliptic axis in his scaly folds.
O'er half the skies his neck enormous rears,
And with immense meanders parts the Bears.

-Erasmus Darwin's Economy of Vegetation

Look, at the stars!
Look, look up at the skies!
O look at all the fire-folk
sitting in the air!

-Horace (65-8 B.C.)

Yon rising Moon that looks for us again -
How oft hereafter will she wax and wane;
How oft hereafter rising look for us
Through this same Garden - and for one in vain!

-Omar Khayyam, Rubaiyat #100

I would rather be a meteor
every atom of me in magnificent glow
Then a sleepy and permanent planet.

-Jack London (1876-1916)

Silently one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

To behold the wandering Moon,
Riding near her highest noon,
Like one that has been led astray
Through the heav'n's wide pathless way.

-John Milton (1608-1674)

O Night, sweet though sombre space of time ...
All things find rest upon their Journey's end --
Our cares thou canst to quietude sublime;
For dews and darkness are of peace the friend."


Split the atom's heart, and lo!
Within it thou wilt find a sun.

-Persian Mystic Poem

The stars are far brighter
Than gems without measure,
The moon is far whiter
Than silver in treasure.

- JRR Tolkien (The Hobbit)

What is it all but a trouble of ants
In the gleam of a million
million of suns?

-Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Star Guides

Any star is enough
if you know what star it is.

-William Stafford

Autumn Sky

Downward waft the autumn leaves;
The hunters' moon's on high
Cetus Swims the starry deep
Cepheus rules the sky.
Rulest I said, well maybe so,
But what of Aries, Perseus, Fomalhaut?
Andromeda and others too,
Lend their light to grace the blue.
I love them all, I wish they'd stay
But like the leaves they'll drift away.

-G. O. Pitcovich

The Sky

The Sky's my treasure chest,
It's there that I store
Diamonds and sapphires,
Emeralds galore
Rubies of red, jades of green
Topaz and opal, iridescent sheen
Gems of all color,
Jewels of all heu,
This treasure's all mine,
But I'll share it with you.

-G. O. Pitcovich

We are planets to each other,
Drifting in our orbits
To a brief eclipse.
Each of us a world apart,
Alone and yet together,
Like two passing ships.

- Neil Peart

We travel in the dark of the new moon
A starry highway traced on the map of the sky
Like lovers and heroes, lonely as the eagle's cry
We're only at home when we're on the fly

- Neil Peart

I've got celestial mechanics
To synchronize my stars
Seasonal migrations, daily variations
World of the unlikely and bizarre

- Neil Peart

The Bermuda High

A tired Moon, buoyant in the heavy air
Ivory, sometimes mauve
Shadows dull and motionless
Noiseless as it plies the sky
Of the Bermuda High.

The Iceland Low grounds weak
In the months around July
So from Little Rock to Marrakech
Swells the Bermuda High.

No horizon for the hills
Cataract blind to fainter light
Transparent promise of the day
Is sterile with the night.

Blue's deleted from the stars
The Galaxy shot down low.
The Archer smothered; the Scorpion drowned.
The Bear will almost go.
Extinction: A magnitude at ten degrees,
Three times that much at one.
At best a lie; It's twice that much
In the Bermuda High.

Below subsidence with Sahara sand
Mist and night frogs fill the hollows.
At ten twenty or ten twenty-four
The leaden Gulf air follows.

Jackson: Calm
Macon: Clear
Charlotte: Calm
Right up to the Lakes.

No fronts, the outbreak's much too weak
A month and maybe more.
Convection clouds climb
An unpolarized sky
To the Bermuda High.

-- G.M. Ross, 1976

The Caribbean is Just a Teaser

"The Caribbean is just a teaser,"
Thought the Savant as he leaned upon the rail.
Good for a breather
But not the El Doradus.

For the southern night
The Tongue of Ocean
Ain't the Land of Goshen.
To see the Fornax Group
You don't want Cuba,
Although maybe Aruba.
Barra de Navidad
Ain't half bad,
But Belmopan
Is better, mon.
As the man said, however,
"The Caribbean is just a teaser."

North Americans have to work
To pretend that we're Balboa,
Whilst Eurpoean plays Prince Henry
With ten more degrees to Goa.

25th of December 2001
Thinking of M.J.C.

-- G.M. Ross, 2001

Sky Tapestry

A tapestry jewelled hangs over the night;
Have you looked up to see where it gleams?
There are rubies and sapphires and diamonds white
Interwoven with mists of lost dreams.

This tapestry ancient was hung up for you
Before Time tried to reckon with Space;
And for ages to come it will hang in the blue,
Starry jewels each one in its place.

Each star has a story, each mist is alight;
If you seek to know each priceless fold
You will treasure this tapestry hung up at night
By the Weaver of tapestries old.

-Cordella Lackey

If the Night Were Void of Stars

'Twould be lonely, 'twould indeed,
It the night were void of stars

How we'd miss the friendly warmth
This heavenly host of ours.

No Swan to wing the northern sky,
Nor mighty Hercules.

No Bear to roam the starry wood,
Nor Charming Pleiades.

No Crown to place on kingly heads,
Nor Dragon there to prey

Upon unwary souls that stroll,
Along the Milky Way.

The planets also we would miss,
Venus, Saturn, Mars

'Twould be lonely, 'twould indeed,
If the night were void of stars.

-G. O. Pitcovich

There is no sound in the forest -
only the phantom murmur
of the far wind
and the wind's shadow drifting
as smoke
through ebon branches; there a single star
glistens in the heart of night....
A star!
Look skyward now...
and see above...INFINITY
Vast and dark and deep
and endless....your heritage:
Silent clouds of stars,
Other worlds uncountable and other suns
beyond numbering
and realms of fire-mist and star-cities
as grains of sand....
Across the void....
Across the gulf of night....
Across the endless rain of years....
Across the ages.
Were you the star-born you should hear
That silent music of which the ancient sages spoke
Though in silent words...
Here then is our quest
and our world
and our Home.
Come with me now, Pilgrim of the stars,
For our time is upon us and our eyes
shall see the far country
and the shining cities of Infinity
which the wise men knew
in ages past, and shall know again
in the ages yet to be.
Look to the east....there shines
the Morning Star...soon shall the sunrise come...
We await the Dawn,
Rise, oh eternal light;
Awaken the World!
With trumpets and cymbals and harp and the sound
of glad song!
And now...
The clouds of night are rolled away;
Sing welcome to the Dawn
Of the bright new day!

From Burnham's Celestial Handbook, by Robert Burnham Jr., 1978.

Cygnus X-1, Book One: The Voyage

In the constellation of Cygnus,
there lurks a mysterious, invisible force:
the black hole of Cygnus X-1....

Six Stars of the Northern Cross
In mourning for their sister's loss
In a final flash of glory
Nevermore to grace the night...

Invisible to telescopic eye
Infinity, the star that would not die

All who dare to cross her course
Are swallowed by her fearsome force

Through the void
To be destroyed
Or is there something more? the core?
Or through the Astral Door?
To soar...

I set a course just east of Lyra
And northwest of Pegasus
Flew into the light of Deneb
Sailed across the Milky Way
On my ship, the "Rocinante"
Wheeling through the galaxies,
Headed for the heart of Cygnus
Headlong into mystery

The x-ray is her siren song
My ship cannot resist her long
Nearer to my deadly goal
Until the black hole
Gains control...

Spinning, whirling,
Still descending
Like a spiral sea,

Sound and fury
Drown my heart
Every nerve
Is torn apart...

To be continued...

- Neil Peart


On certain nights
When the angles are right
And the moon is a slender crescent

Its circle shows
In a ghostly glow
Of earthly luminescence

A beacon in the night
I can raise my eyes to
A jewel out of reach
Form a dream to rise to

Floating high
In the evening sky
I see my faint reflection

Pale facsimile
Like what others see
When they look in my direction

Stretching out your hand
Full of starlit diamonds

Reflected light
To another's sight
And the moon tells a lover's story

My borrowed face
And my third-hand grace
Only reflect your glory

You're still out of reach
Form a dream to rise to

- Neil Peart