This volume, while it is complete in itself, is also the first of a trilogy, the scope of which is suggested in the prologue. The story of scientific discovery has its own epic unity--a unity of purpose and endeavour--the single torch passing from hand to hand through the centuries; and the great moments of science when, after long labour, the pioneers saw their accumulated facts falling into a significant order--sometimes in the form of a law that revolutionised the whole world of thought--have an intense human interest, and belong essentially to the creative imagination of poetry. It is with these moments that my poem is chiefly concerned, not with any impossible attempt to cover the whole field or to make a new poetic system, after the Lucretian model, out of modern science.
mortal eyes had seen before from earth,
O, beautiful and clear beyond all dreams
Was that one silver phrase of the starry tune
Which Galileo's "old discoverer" first
Dimly revealed, dissolving into clouds
The imagined fabric of our universe.
_"Jupiter stands in heaven and will stand
Though all the sycophants bark at him,"_ he cried,
Hailing the truth before he, too, went down,
Whelmed in the cloudy wreckage of that dream.
So one by one we looked, the men who served
Urania, and the men from Vulcan's forge.
A beautiful eagerness in the darkness lit
The swarthy faces that too long had missed
A meaning in the dull mechanic maze
Of labour on this blind earth, but found it now.
Though only a moment's wandering melody
Hopelessly far above, it gave their toil
Its only consecration and its joy.
There, with dark-smouldering eyes and naked throats,
Blue-dungareed, red-shirted, grimed and smeared
With engine-grease and sweat, they gathered round
The foot of that dim ladder; each muttering low
As he came down, his wonder at what he saw
To those who waited,--a picture for the brush
Of Rembrandt, lighted only by the rift
Above them, where the giant muzzle thrust
Out through the dim arched roof, and slowly throbbed,
Against the slowly moving wheel of the earth,
Holding their chosen star.
There, like an elf,
Perched on the side of that dark slanting tower
The Italian mechanician watched the moons,
That Italy discovered.
One by one,
American, English, French, and Dutch, they climbed
To see the wonder that their own blind hands
Had helped to achieve.
At midnight while they paused
To adjust the clock-machine, I wandered out
Alone, into the silence of the night.
The silence? On that lonely height I heard
For, as I looked into the gulf beneath,
Whence almost all the lights