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not yet fearful

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Back at work. I still have the dedication line on the front page to the Columbia astronauts, and it will stay there until there is some resolution to this situation.

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

This is the epitaph on the memorial plaque to John and Phoebe Brashear, pioneering Pittsburgh astronomers, but the line originates in the following poem:

The Old Astronomer to His Pupil

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.

— Sarah Williams, “Best Loved Poems of the American People”, Hazel Felleman, ed.
Garden City Publishing Co., Garden City NY: 1936, pp. 613-614

The old cliché, about knowledge as a light that cuts through darkness, does not seem like such a cliché after all.


Written by brian t

February 10, 2003 at 10:09 am

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