The Old Astronomer

I just found one of my favorite poems…there’s a particular one I’m fond of above all others, but that’s a post for another day. Today I finally figured out the poem one of my favorite quotes comes from: The Old Astronomer – by Sarah Williams.

I’ve always known the last two lines from the fourth stanza. Those are famous enough, and I know I had to have first heard them somehow in relations to a debate about astronomy, space, and of course everyone’s two favorite Sci-Fi series: Star Trek and Star Wars. It’s been poetic and something that always stuck with me, but I’ve never really read over or thought to think on the whole poem. I figure, it needs some unpacking to really like and understand it. But it’s beautiful, and I like it.

Reach me down my Tycho Brahe, I would know him when we meet,

When I share my later science, sitting humbly at his feet;

He may know the law of all things, yet be ignorant of how

We are working to completion, working on from then to now.


Pray remember that I leave you all my theory complete,

Lacking only certain data for your adding, as is meet,

And remember men will scorn it, ’tis original and true,

And the obloquy of newness may fall bitterly on you.


But, my pupil, as my pupil you have learned the worth of scorn,

You have laughed with me at pity, we have joyed to be forlorn,

What for us are all distractions of men’s fellowship and smiles;

What for us the Goddess Pleasure with her meretricious smiles!


You may tell that German College that their honor comes too late,

But they must not waste repentance on the grizzly savant’s fate.

Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;

I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

It’s beautiful, and haunting in a manner. Don’t know why, but I really do appreciate how powerful the last lines are. It’s also interesting how certain poems, lines, stanzas or phrases can stick so strongly with a person. I know I first came across those last lines probably 10-15 years ago; and they’ve stuck with me to today. It’s funny the things that stick.


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