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Odyssey from Africa 16b

16b Stargazing 

Here they filed into a hallway
Into almost total darkness
Just a pair of flick’ring candles
Led them to an inner circle
 
At its center was a platform 
Where a single chair was mounted 
At an angle, facing upward
And a scholar there was seated
 
Then they heard the sound of turning 
Of the handles and the gearing 
Of a powerful mechanism 
Till they saw above an opening

Saw a sudden blaze of starlight
Pierce the darkness straight above them
As the overhead roof panels
Parted to reveal the heavens

From the darkness of the chamber
On the isolated hilltop 
The effect was very striking 
As their eyes took in the grandeur
 
Of a million points of starlight 
Lucid in the inky blackness 
In the pristine ancient air, the
Stars blazed clear in all their glory

As a sparkling silver cloud, the
Milky Way was clear as crystal
Stars revealed their subtle shades
And colours to unaided eyesight 
 
Han with Ptolemy the king both
Stood and stared in silent wonder
Now the scholars in the chamber 
Set to work with careful purpose 
 
This was no mere recreation 
As the scholar who was seated
In the center gave instructions 
To his colleagues who responded 
 
By engaging some equipment 
Raised above the central platform  
Han now noticed tiny symbols
Moving through the air above them
 
Held on finest threads of sisal
They were carefully positioned
To align with heavenly objects 
As seen by the person seated

In the chair of observation. 
Round the margin of the hall were
Tables lit by shaded candles
Where the scholars studied star charts
 
And they carefully recorded
Special motions of the heavens 
Planets moving independent 
Of the thousand charted star-fields
 
Han, though growing now accustomed 
To the wonders of the kingdom 
Could not help but feel astounded
By the method and the workings 

Of the king’s observatory 
In their study of the heavens
As a scholar now approached them
She addressed the king directly:
 
“Hear O king of our observing 
Of the stars, the moon and planets 
And the charting of the progress 
Of the bodies through the heavens 
 
“Which both singly and together 
Act on our capricious planet
For this very night our scholars 
Have foreseen a new arrangement 
 
“Which in time should still the storm tides
And ensure a safer passage
For the sailing of Australis,
As some moons ago we witnessed
 
“An eclipsing of the full moon
As earth, moon and sun together 
Were aligned in a syzygy
And this raised a surging spring tide

Copyright © | Year Posted 2018




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