When William walked here after dark,
pondering beauty, wrestling with some stubborn rhyme
he strode thoughtfully beneath a sea of stars
thick as faerie dust; scattered o’er the heavens
like seed across the fields they lit his way,
guiding his weary feet home to crackling hearth again.
Planets blazed above the fells like lanterns:
Venus a diamond-bright beacon shining
in the west, Mars a bloody garnet
burning through the lonely Lakeland night.
No blinding floodlights turned his eyes
from the star-frothed heavens; when he
and Dorothy stood on Dove Cottage’s step
above their heads the the Milky Way arched
like a misty bridge, slicing the fluttering sky in half.
Seeing suns as thick as smoke I’m sure they feared Windermere
had been consumed in fumes and roaring flame…
Walking by the lake, worn boots scrunching
on its shingle shore did William pause
to stare at shooting stars skipping through The Plough?
Wrapped in darkness folded thick as Byron’s finest
swirling cloak did he see the Lion and the Lamb
silhouetted ‘gainst a comet’s ghostly tail?
Woken by unearthly light shining through
his drapes did he gape in awe at the aurora’s
scarlet curtains swaying gaily over Keswick?
We will never know.
“Look for the stars, you’ll say that there are none;
Look up a second time, and, one by one,
You mark them twinkling out with silvery light,
And wonder how they could elude the sight!” he wrote
but had he lived to know the baleful orange glow
we call the sky he would be shamed,
and, turning away from the ruined heavens,
mourn the murder of the night.
© Stuart Atkinson 2006