The Old Astronomer (To His Pupil) – by Sarah Williams

This is a hauntingly beautiful poem I came across recently, and I thought I’d share it. I’ve read it multiple times by now and still weep like a little child every time.

In fact, I love it so much I’ve decided to set some of the verses to music. Maybe it has something to do with my not-so-secret love for astronomy. 😉


Reach me down my Tycho Brahé, – 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 wiles;
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.

What, my boy, you are not weeping? You should save your eyes for sight;
You will need them, mine observer, yet for many another night.
I leave none but you, my pupil, unto whom my plans are known.
You “have none but me,” you murmur, and I “leave you quite alone”?

Well then, kiss me, – since my mother left her blessing on my brow,
There has been a something wanting in my nature until now;
I can dimly comprehend it, – that I might have been more kind,
Might have cherished you more wisely, as the one I leave behind.

I “have never failed in kindness”? No, we lived too high for strife,–
Calmest coldness was the error which has crept into our life;
But your spirit is untainted, I can dedicate you still
To the service of our science: you will further it? you will!

There are certain calculations I should like to make with you,
To be sure that your deductions will be logical and true;
And remember, “Patience, Patience,” is the watchword of a sage,
Not to-day nor yet to-morrow can complete a perfect age.

I have sown, like Tycho Brahé, that a greater man may reap;
But if none should do my reaping, ’twill disturb me in my sleep
So be careful and be faithful, though, like me, you leave no name;
See, my boy, that nothing turn you to the mere pursuit of fame.

I must say Good-bye, my pupil, for I cannot longer speak;
Draw the curtain back for Venus, ere my vision grows too weak:
It is strange the pearly planet should look red as fiery Mars,–
God will mercifully guide me on my way amongst the stars.

“I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night” – one of my favorite lines ever!


2 thoughts on “The Old Astronomer (To His Pupil) – by Sarah Williams

  1. Your voice and the song are “hauntingly beautiful”!! This has been one of my favourite poems since my schooldays. These words have been a guiding light to me during times of great darkness in my career as an engineer and a scientist.

    Your musical rendition of this poem literally moved me to tears. It has a wonderful atmospheric effect like a song of the highest of the seraphim!

    I know that it is too much to ask of you, but would it be possible for you to render the entire poem as a song instead of just a few stanzas? This has become my new favourite piece of music! I’m eagerly looking forward to listening to the entire poem sung by you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much!! I am truly grateful for your heartfelt comments! I also wanted to include all the stanzas when I originally wrote the music, because they’re all so beautiful, but thought it would be too long and people wouldn’t want to listen to it then. Haha!! Maybe I will try a “full version” though some time, just for the fun of it. 🙂 Thanks again for stopping by!!


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