BESIDE the Mare Crisium, that sea
Where water never was, sit down with me
And let us talk of Earth, where long ago
We drank the air and saw the rivers flow
Like comets through the green estates of man,
And fruit the color of Aldebaran
Weighted the curving boughs. The route of stars
Was our diversion, and the fate of Mars
Our grave concern; we stared throughout the night
On these uncolonized demesnes of light.
We read of stars escaping Newton's chain
Till only autographs of fire remain.
We aimed our mortal searchlight into space
As if in hopes to find a mortal face.
O little Earth, our village, where the day
Seemed all too brief, and starlight would not stay,
We were provincials on that grand express
That whirled us into dark and loneliness.
We thought to bring you wonder with a tale
Huger than those that turned our fathers pale.
Here in this lunar night, we watch alone
Longer than ever men have watched for dawn.
Beyond this meteor-bitten plain we see
More starry systems than you dream to be,
And while their clockwork blazes overhead
We speak the names we learned as were bred;
We tell of places seen each day from birth --
Obscure and local, patios of the Earth!
O race of farmers, plowing year by year
The same few fields, I sometimes seem to hear
The far-off echo of a cattle bell
Against the cratered cliff of Arzachel,
And weep to think no sound can ever come
Across that outer desert from my home!
~ A D R I E N N E R I C H
illustration by Chesley Bonestell
This poem originally appeared in a 1953 issue of The New Yorker magazine, and was
republished as a preface to Man and The Moon (World, 1960)
edited by Griffin Park observatory astronomer Robert Richardson, with contributions by Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley,
amongst others, and many illustrations by Chesley Bonestell. For his 88th birthday, Bonestell made the illustrative framework for
the poem as shown above right, lithographing only 100 copies which he then sent as gifts (Hobbit style!) to various friends, neighbors,
family members, and colleagues. Once upon a time I had one of these, which I passed along to another collector (in exchange for
some Worldcon mad-money), but not before I took this really nice photograph!
..and now let me entertain you with something of my own along a similar vein:
A Spaceman Errant's Lament
A THOUSAND STARS, a hundred globes,
uncounted rocky moons
I've seen too much, yet more I'll see
before this journey's through.
In younger days I scanned the skies
through cardboard tubes with polished glass
whose magic brought forth nebulae
and banded orbs of misty gas.
The stars, as if to beckon me,
then twinkled, winked, and danced.
Lost, deep in dreams of distant worlds,
the child's mind reeled, entranced.
Now here I wander through the stars
and spy the worlds I'd longed to roam —
my favorites now are blue and green,
reminding me of distant home.
But toward trees, birds, grass and seas
my voyage fails to go,
and rocks and sand and methane mists
no longer bring me joy.
I long to plant my feet upon
a far and fertile shore,
but on another course I drift
and the stars will dance no more.
Grants Pass, Oregon