Monday, July 04, 2005

Poem of the Week 7/4/2005: Star-gazer


Forty-two years ago (to me if to no one else
The number is of some interest) it was a brilliant starry night
And the westward train was empty and had no corridors
So darting from side to side I could catch the unwonted sight
Of those almost intolerably bright
Holes, punched in the sky, which excited me partly because
Of their Latin names and partly because I had read in the textbooks
How very far off they were, it seemed their light
Had left them (some at least) long years before I was.

And this remembering now I mark that what
Light was leaving some of them at least then,
Forty-two years ago, will never arrive
In time for me to catch it, which light when
It does get here may find that there is not
Anyone left alive
To run from side to side in a late night train
Admiring it and adding noughts in vain.

Louis MacNeice 1967

Happy Fourth of July friends and family! I could have chosen a grumpy political poem for this week, but I think that I am going to follow my MLK Jr. day track and add positive thoughts to a national holiday. It is important to know for this poem that MacNeice was born in 1907, so he was eighteen "forty two years ago". It's another celestial poem for me...surprise. There is a lot I could say about this poem, but I want to say how much this poem is resonating with me right now. It distills the excitement and openness of a fresh adulthood without losing sight of its ephemerality. I find it interesting how there are two consciousnesses at work here; that of the young eighteen year old and that of the sixty year old looking back. So I enjoyed seeing myself from that space. The night tonight was completely dark and beautiful, and I wanted to find a poem that felt the same way. Some things to notice: ephermality vs. infinity, unintrusive rhyme, the visual form, the somewhat unsual diction, parentheses, repetition, and the character of MacNeice (who is almost certainly the narrator.) I would keep writing if I was more awake. So I am going to go enjoy the night in a different way: by sleeping. Goodnight!


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