Popular Science Monthly/Volume 12/November 1877/To the Ring Nebula


O PALLID spectre of the midnight skies!
"Whose phantom features in the dome of Night
Elude the keenest gaze of wistful eyes
Till amplest lenses aid the failing sight,
On heaven's blue sea the farthest isle of fire,
From thee, whose glories it would fain admire,
Must vision, baffled, in despair retire!

What art thou, ghostly visitant of flame?
Wouldst thou 'neath closer scrutiny dissolve
In myriad suns that constellations frame,
Round which life-freighted satellites revolve,
Like those unnumbered orbs which nightly creep
In dim procession o'er the azure steep,
As white-winged caravans the desert sweep?

Or art thou still an incandescent mass,
Acquiring form as hostile forces urge,
Through whose vast, length a million lightnings pass
As to and fro its fiery billows surge—
Whose glowing atoms, whirled in ceaseless strife
Where now chaotic anarchy is rife,
Shall yet become the fair abodes of life?

We know not; for the faint, exhausted rays
Which hither on Light's winged coursers come,
From fires which ages since first lit their blaze,
One instant gleam, then perish, spent and dumb!
How strange the thought that, whatsoe'er we learn,
Our tiny globe no answer can return,
Since with but dull, reflected beams we burn!

Yet this we know: yon ring of spectral light,
Whose distance thrills the soul with solemn awe,
Can ne'er escape in its majestic might
The firm control of omnipresent law.
This mote descending to its bounden place,
Those suns whose radiance we can scarcely trace,
Alike obey the Power pervading space