Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
To the Moon
By Lydia H. Sigourney (1791–1865)
HAIL beauteous and inconstant!—Thou who roll’st
Thy silver car around the realm of night,
Queen of soft hours! how fanciful art thou
In equipage and vesture.—Now thou com’st
With slender horn piercing the western cloud,        5
As erst on Judah’s hills, when joyous throngs
With trump and festival saluted thee;
Anon thy waxing crescent ’mid the host
Of constellations, like some fairy boat,
Glides o’er the waveless sea; then as a bride        10
Thou bow’st thy cheek behind a fleecy veil,
Timid and fair; or, bright in regal robes,
Dost bid thy full orb’d chariot proudly roll,
Sweeping with silent rein the starry path
Up to the highest node,—then plunging low        15
To seek dim Nadir in his misty cell.—
—Lov’st thou our earth, that thou dost hold thy lamp
To guide and cheer her, when the wearied sun
Forsakes her?—Sometimes, roving on, thou shedd’st
The eclipsing blot ungrateful, on that sire        20
Who feeds thy urn with light,—but sinking deep
’Neath the dark shadow of the earth dost mourn
And find thy retribution.
            —Dost thou hold
Dalliance with ocean, that his mighty heart        25
Tosses at thine approach, and his mad tides,
Drinking thy favoring glance, more rudely lash
Their rocky bulwark?—Do thy children trace
Through crystal tube our coarser-featured orb
Even as we gaze on thee?—With Euclid’s art        30
Perchance, from pole to pole, her sphere they span,
Her sun-loved tropics—and her spreading seas
Rich with their myriad isles. Perchance they mark
Where India’s cliffs the trembling cloud invade,
Or Andes with his fiery banner flouts        35
The empyrean,—where old Atlas towers,—
Or that rough chain whence he of Carthage pour’d
Terrors on Rome.—Thou, too, perchance, hast nursed
Some bold Copernicus, or fondly call’d
A Galileo forth, those sun-like souls        40
Which shone in darkness, though our darkness fail’d
To comprehend them.—Canst thou boast, like earth,
A Kepler, skilful pioneer and wise?—
A sage to write his name among the stars
Like glorious Herschel?—or a dynasty        45
Like great Cassini’s, which from sire to son
Transmitted science as a birthright seal’d?
—Rose there some lunar Horrox,—to whose glance
Resplendent Venus her adventurous course
Reveal’d, even in his boyhood?—some La Place        50
Luminous as the skies he sought to read?—
Thou deign’st no answer,—or I fain would ask
If since thy bright creation, thou hast seen
Ought like a Newton, whose admitted eye
The arcana of the universe explored?        55
Light’s subtle ray its mechanism disclosed,
The impetuous comet his mysterious lore
Unfolded,—system after system rose,
Eternal wheeling through the immense of space,
And taught him of their laws.—Even angels stood        60
Amazed, as when in ancient times they saw
On Sinai’s top, a mortal walk with God.—
—But he to whom the secrets of the skies
Were whisper’d—in humility adored,
Breathing with childlike reverence the prayer,        65
—“When on yon heavens, with all their orbs, I gaze,
Jehovah!—what is man?”

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