Archive for October 12, 2010

O World of Many Worlds

Posted in Poetry, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on October 12, 2010 by telescoper

You probably don’t associate the poet Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) with cosmology or astrophysics, as his poems were almost exclusively about the horror of war. This one, however,  which was begun in 1913, before the First World War broke out – Owen himself enlisted in 1915 –  will surely strike several chords with those interested in the use of the phrase Many Worlds in other contexts, and it also contains a number of astronomical references.

O World of many worlds, O life of lives,
What centre hast thou? Where am I?
O whither is it thy fierce onrush drives?
Fight I, or drift; or stand; or fly?

The loud machinery spins, points work in touch;
Wheels whirl in systems, zone in zone.
Myself having sometime moved with such,
Would strike a centre of mine own.

Lend hand, O Fate, for I am down, am lost!
Fainting by violence of the Dance…
Ah thanks, I stand – the floor is crossed,
And I am where but few advance.

I see men far below me where they swarm…
(Haply above me – be it so!
Does space to compass-points conform,
And can we say a star stands high or low?)

Not more complex the millions of the stars
Than are the hearts of mortal brothers;
As far remote as Neptune from small Mars
Is one man’s nature from another’s.

But all hold course unalterably fixed;
They follow destinies foreplanned:
I envy not these lives in their faith unmixed,
I would not step with such a band.

To be a meteor, fast, eccentric, lone,
Lawless; in passage through all spheres,
Warning the earth of wider ways unknown
And rousing men with heavenly fears…

This is the track reserved for my endeavour;
Spanless the erring way I wend.
Blackness of darkness is my meed for ever?
And barren plunging without end?

O glorious fear! Those other wandering souls
High burning through that outer bourne
Are lights unto themselves. Fair aureoles
Self-radiated these are worn.

And when in after times those stars return
And strike once more earth’s horizon,
They gather many satellites astern,
For they are greater than this system’s Sun.



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