Astrophysicist, Space Telescope Science Institute
Humans have always been fascinated with the heavens. Our distant ancestors understood that Mother Earth was receiving its daylight warmth from the majestic Sun, and its pale, nocturnal light from the Moon. In addition, there were those twinkling point sources of light that the ancients connected by imaginary lines to form mythical constellations. A few "stars" were observed to wander across the sky and they were dubbed "planets" (meaning "wandering stars") by the ancient Greeks.
Not surprisingly, the stars have been the subject of many poems. Perhaps none is more romantic than John Keats's "Bright Star." This may have been Keats' last poem before his untimely death in 1821, at age 25. In that poem, which Keats transcribed into a volume of The Poetical Works of William Shakespeare (Figure 1), Keats wished to be as constant as a star:
Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art --
Not in lone splendor hung aloft the night..."
Figure 1. The poem "Bright Star" by John Keats was transcribed into a volume ofThe Poetical Works of William Shakespeare. Image in the Public Domain.
The most familiar poem about the stars is probably "The Star" by English poet Jane Taylor (1783–1824). The poem is better known through the sung version of its first line, "Twinkle, twinkle, little star." The music that accompanies the first stanza was taken from an eighteenth century French melody. ...more