new testaments of the skies
...Thoreau's Journal: 21-Jan-1853

I pine for a new world in the heavens as well as on earth, and though it is some consolation to hear of the wilderness of stars and systems invisible to the naked eye, yet the sky does not make that impression of variety and wildness that even the forest does, as it ought. It makes an impression, rather, of simplicity and unchangeableness, as of eternal laws; this being the same constellation which the shepherds saw, and obedient still to the same law. It does not affect me as that unhandselled wilderness which the forest is. I seem to see it pierced with visual rays from a thousand observatories. It is more the domain of science than of poetry. But it's the stars as not known to science that I would know, the stars which the lonely traveler knows.

The Chaldean shepherds saw not the same stars which I see, and if I am elevated in the least toward the heavens, I do not accept their classification of them. I am not to be distracted by their names which they have imposed. The sun which I know is not Apollo, nor is the evening star Venus. The heavens should be as new, at least, as the world is new. This classification of the stars is old and musty; it is as if a mildew had taken place in the heavens, as if the stars so closely packed had heated and moulded there. If they appear fixed, it is because that hitherto men have been thus necessitated to see them. I see not merely old but new testaments of the skies. Do not I stand as near the stars as the Chaldean shepherds? The heavens commonly look as dry and meager as our astronomers are,—mere troops, as the latter are catalogues, of stars. The Milky Way yields no milk.


Anonymous said...

Henry had some differing views on the heavens elsewhere in his journal:

"As the skies appear to a man, so is his mind. Some see only clouds there; some, prodigies and portents; some rarely look up at all; their heads, like the brutes', are directed toward Earth. Some behold there serenity, purity, beauty ineffable. The world runs to see the panorama, when there is a panorama in the sky which few go to see."

-- Journal, 17 January 1852 Entry

"The stars are the jewels of the night and perchance surpass anything which day has to show."

-- Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

He also once made a comment about how scientists of his day should be more interested in the fungus at their feet than the stars.

Too bad Henry didn't get more familiar with the night sky.

Nature is not separated from earth and sky except by man's artificial mindset.

michael jameson said...

the moods of men are great and many!?, today the stars are nothing more then the pin holes in the curtain of night, tomorrow the resting place of my soul, we change like the wind and that is who or what we are.

denise said...

wonderful job!