ON HIS RETURN FROM SOUTH AMERICA
AFTER FIFTEEN YEARS DEVOTED TO CATALOGUING THE
STARS OF THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE
Read at the Dinner given at the Hotel Vendome, May 6,1885.
ONCE more Orion and the sister Seven
Look on thee from the skies that hailed thy birth,–
How shall we welcome thee, whose home was heaven,
From thy celestial wanderings back to earth?
Science has kept her midnight taper burning
To greet thy coming with its vestal flame;
Friendship has murmured, “When art thou returning?”
“Not yet! Not yet!” the answering message came.
Thine was unstinted zeal, unchilled devotion,
While the blue realm had kingdoms to explore,–
Patience, like his who ploughed the unfurrowed ocean,
Till o’er its margin loomed San Salvador.
Through the long nights I see thee ever waking,
Thy footstool earth, thy roof the hemisphere,
While with thy griefs our weaker hearts are aching,
Firm as thine equatorial’s rock-based pier.
The souls that voyaged the azure depths before thee
Watch with thy tireless vigils, all unseen,–
Tycho and Kepler bend benignant o’er thee,
And with his toy-like tube the Florentine,–
He at whose word the orb that bore him shivered
To find her central sovereignty disowned,
While the wan lips of priest and pontiff quivered,
Their jargon stilled, their Baal disenthroned.
Flamsteed and Newton look with brows unclouded,
Their strife forgotten with its faded scars,–
(Titans, who found the world of space too crowded
To walk in peace among its myriad stars.)
All cluster round thee,–seers of earliest ages,
Persians, Ionians, Mizraim’s learned kings,
From the dim days of Shinar’s hoary sages
To his who weighed the planet’s fluid rings.
And we, for whom the northern heavens are lighted,
For whom the storm has passed, the sun has smiled,
Our clouds all scattered, all our stars united,
We claim thee, clasp thee, like a long-lost child.
Fresh from the spangled vault’s o’er-arching splendor,
Thy lonely pillar, thy revolving dome,
In heartfelt accents, proud, rejoicing, tender,
We bid thee welcome to thine earthly home!