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Early Space Poetry

What poets of the 17th through 19th centuries
had to say about other worlds in space

Collected and annotated by Sylvia Engdahl

Note: All this poetry and much more is included in an Appendix to the updated edition of The Planet-Girded Suns: The Long History of Belief in Exoplanets, available in both paperback and ebook editions.
It's commonly assumed that belief in other inhabited worlds, especially worlds in other solar systems, is a relatively modern idea, which didn't become prevalent until the 20th century -- many today even think it was originated by science fiction. But in fact, from the mid-17th century through 19th almost all educated people believed that the stars are suns surrounded by inhabited planets. This belief wasn't seriously questioned until the late 19th century, and was out of favor with the majority only for a short period roughly corresponding to the time between World Wars I and II.

In the early 1970s, while doing research for my nonfiction book The Planet-Girded Suns, I collected quite a bit of poetry from earlier centuries that reveals what was thought about other planets. Much such poetry is by writers -- many of them didactic writers -- who are forgotten today, so a few stanzas by famous poets are often cited as if they were rare exceptions displaying prophetic vision. Actually, these familiar ones are typical of the vast amount of such verse that appeared in popular publications of their day. In many cases I've seen only fragments of poems, quoted by scholars of literature; in others I've taken brief passages from long (sometimes book-length) works that are particularly relevant. This collection has been stashed away in my files for 30 years -- I'm posting portions of it now in case others may find them as fascinating as I do.

Why do these views of the past about the universe matter today? Because, I think, they demonstrate that people have been aware of planets beyond Earth, and have been deeply attracted to them, for a very long time -- long before travel between worlds was considered even a remote possibility. The desire for knowledge about them appears to be an instinctive human longing.

In the 18th century, of course, it was assumed that there could never be actual contact with other worlds; but the people who believed in their existence couldn't bear to think that nobody would ever find out more than could be learned through telescopes, and so they envisioned the souls of men like Newton -- and eventually, their own souls -- voyaging through space and seeing those worlds at close range on their way to Heaven. A great many poems were written on this theme; it was the first form in which space travel was seriously imagined by the public (stories of trips to the moon in that era, though popular, were either fantasy or satire on earthly affairs). People felt deep emotions about the idea. The late 19th and early 20th centuries, when literal belief in an afterlife declined, coincided with the time when belief in many inhabited solar systems began to fade. I've always felt that this was a kind of "sour grapes" response -- or rather, a perhaps- comforting conclusion that there aren't any grapes on vines beyond our reach. It's significant that the conviction that millions of extrasolar planets exist didn't become widespread again until radio astronomers began to have hope of receiving messages from them, and that as time passes without evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, the pendulum seems to be swinging again toward theories that Earth may be unique.

In any case, a strong sense of our kinship with a vast inhabited universe has prevailed during most of the decades for the past 350 years, and these poems are evidence of its existence before the 20th century. Dozens of poets -- and no doubt more whose works aren't accessible, as well as those who wrote in languages other than English -- referred briefly to planets circling other suns, usually in a religious context as evidence of God's power. I've limited what is included here to the most interesting of the passages that go into detail and/or mention inhabitants, or are by well- known authors. They're arranged in order of date.

(If you're looking for well-known poets such as Shelley, Byron, Tennyson and Whitman, you may want to skip to Part II, 19th Century.)

17th Century

From William Drummond, "The Shadow of the Judgment" (1630)

Drummond viewed the discovery of comets and new stars (novas) as an omen of the end of the world, a belief common in his time when the heavens were thought to be unchanging -- but this sounds very much like today's all-too-real fear that we, like the dinosaurs, may someday be destroyed by an asteroid.

. . . They which dream
An everlastingness in world's vast frame,
Think well some region where they dwell may wrack,
But that the whole nor time nor force can shake;
Yet, frantic, muse to see heaven's stately lights,
Like drunkards, wayless reel amidst their heights.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Alas! say they, what boots our toils and pains?
Of care on earth is this the furthest gains?
No riches now can bribe our angry fate,
O no! to blast our pride the heavens do threat;
In dust now must our greatness buried lie,
Yet it is comfort with the world to die.
As more and more the warning signs increase,
Wild dread deprives lost Adam's race of peace;
From out their grandam Earth they fain would fly,
But whither know not, heavens are far and high.


From Henry More, "Democritus Platonissans, or an Essay Upon the Infinity of Worlds" (1647)

And as the Planets in our world (of which
The sun's the heart and kernal) do receive
Their nightly light from suns that do enrich
Their sable mantle with bright gemmes, and give
A goodly splendour, and sad men relieve
With their fair twinkling rayes, so our world's sunne
Becomes a starre elsewhere, and doth derive
Joynt light with others, cheareth all that won
In those dim duskish Orbs round other suns that run.

This is the parergon of each noble fire
Of neighbor worlds to be the nightly starre,
But their main work is vitall heat t'inspire
Into the frigid spheres that 'bout them fare;
Which of themselves quite dead and barren are,
But by the wakening warmth of kindly dayes,
And the sweet dewie nights, in due course raise
Long hidden shapes and life, to their great Maker's praise.

These with their suns I severall worlds do call,
Whereof the number I deem infinite:
Else infinite darkness were in this great Hall
Of th'endlesse Universe; for nothing finite
Could put that immense shadow into flight.
But if that infinite Suns we shall admit,
Then infinite worlds follow in reason right,
For every Sun with Planets must be fit,
And have some mark for his farre-shining shafts to hit.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
And if these globes be regions of life
And several kinds of plants therein do grow,
Grasse, flowers, hearbs, trees, which the impartial knife
Of all consuming Time still down doth mow,
And new again doth in succession show;
Which also's done in flies, birds, men and beasts;
Adde sand, pearls, pebbles, that the ground do strow,
Leaves, quills, hairs, thorns, blooms; you may think the rest
Their kinds by mortal penne cannot be well exprest.


From John Dryden, Annus Mirabilis (1666)

Instructed ships shall sail to quick Commerce;
By which remotest Regions are alli'd:
Which makes one City of the Universe,
Where some may gain, and all may be suppli'd.

Then, we upon our Globe's last verge shall go,
And view the Ocean leaning on the sky:
From thence our rolling Neighbours shall we know,
And on the Lunar world securely pry.


From John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667)

Though most of the imagery of Paradise Lost is based on the pre-Copernican conception of the universe, Milton did refer to the belief in inhabitants of the moon and worlds of other suns in several passages such as this one, spoken by an angel to Adam.

. . . What if that light
Sent to her through the wide transpicious air,
To the terrestrial Moon be as a star,
Enlightening her by day, as she by night
This Earth--reciprocal, if land be there,
Fields and inhabitants? Her spots thou seest
As clouds, and clouds may rain, and rain produce
Fruits in her softened soil, for some to eat
Allotted there; and other Suns, perhaps,
With their attendant Moons, thou wilt descry,
Communicating male and female light,
Which two great sexes animate the World,
Stored in each Orb perhaps with some that live.
For such vast room in Nature unpossessed
By living soul, desert and desolate,
Only to shine, yet scarce to contribute
Each orb a glimpse of light, conveyed so far
Down to this habitable, which returns
Light back to them, is obvious to dispute.
But whether thus these things, or whether not--
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Solicit not thy thoughts with matters hid:
Leave them to God above; him serve and fear;
Of other creatures as him pleases best,
Wherever placed, let him dispose . . .
Dream not of other worlds, what creatures there
Live, in what state, condition, or degree.



18th Century

From Lady Mary Chudleigh, "The Song of the Three Children Paraphras'd" (1703)

Fashionable ladies of the early 18th century were extremely interested in other suns and their planets, having been inspired by Fontenelle's Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds (1686), a book specifically directed to women.
Note: Here, "liquid air" and "aether" refer to Descartes' theory that space is filled with a fluid substance that flows into vortices, which was how the motion of planets was explained before Newton introduced the concept of gravity.

Ye glittering Stars, who float in liquid Air,
Both ye that round the Sun in different Circles move,
And ye that shine like Suns above;
Whose Light and Heat attending Planets share:
In your high Stations your Creator praise,
While we admire both him and you;
Tho' vastly distant, yet our Eyes we raise,
And wou'd your lofty Regions view;
Those immense Spaces which no Limits know,
Where purest Aether unconfin'd doth flow;
But our weak Sight cannot such Journies go:
'Tis Thought alone the Distance must explore;
Nothing but That to such a Height can soar,
Nothing but That can thither wing its Way,
And there with boundless Freedom stray,
And at one View ten thousand sparkling Orbs survey,
Innumerable Worlds and dazzling Springs of Light.
O the vast Prospect! O the charming Sight!
How full of Wonder, and Delight!
How mean, how little, does our Globe appear!
This object of our Envy, Toil and Care,
Is hardly seen amidst the Crowd above;
There, like some shining Point, does scare distinguish'd move.


From Sir Richard Blackmore, The Creation: a Philosophical Poem in Seven Books (1712)

Yet is this mighty system, which contains
So many worlds, such vast etherial plains,
But one of thousands, which compose the whole,
Perhaps as glorious, and of worlds as full.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
All these illustrious worlds, and many more,
Which by the tube astronomers explore:
And millions which the glass can ne'er descry,
Lost in the wilds of vast immensity;
Are suns, are centres, whose superior sway
Planets of various magnitudes obey.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
As this inferior habitable seat
By different parts is made one whole complete;
So our low world is only one of those,
Which the capacious universe compose.
Now to the universal whole advert;
The Earth regard as of that whole a part,
In which wide frame more noble worlds abound;
Witness, ye glorious orbs, which hang around,
Ye shining planets, that in ether stray.
And thou, bright lord and ruler of the day!
Witness, ye stars, which beautify the skies,
How much do your vast globes, in height and size,
In beauty and magnificence, outgo
Our ball of Earth, that hangs in clouds below!
Between yourselves, too, is distinction found,
Of different bulk, with different glory crown'd;
The people, which in your bright regions dwell,
Must this world's low inhabitants excel;
And since to various planets they agree,
They from each other must distinguished be,
And own perfections different in degree.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
We may pronounce each orb sustains a race
Of living things adapted to the place.
Were the refulgent parts, and most refine'd
Only to serve the dark and base design'd?
Were all the stars, whose beauteous realms of light,
At distance only hung to shine by night?
And with their twinkling beams to please our sight?
How many roll in ether, which the eye
Could n'er, till aided by the glass, descry;
And which no commerce with the Earth maintain!
Are all these glorious empires made in vain?

Note: Until the late 19th century virtually all writing about other planets, poetry and prose alike, was focused on the conviction that their existence demonstrated the glory and power of God; the belief that they were inhabited was based on an unquestioned premise that God wouldn't have created a world "in vain" -- that is, of no use to anyone.

Blackmore's reference to this world as "base" (in the sense of debased or degraded) is a holdover from pre-Copernican cosmology, in which Earth occupied the center of the universe -- not the best place, as is often assumed, but the worst except for hell, which was envisioned at its core. The spheres of the stars were thought to be perfect and unchanging, while Earth and its irregular features (such as mountains) were considered to have been corrupted as a result of the "Fall" of man.


From Matthew Prior, Solomon on the Vanity of the World, a Poem in Three Books (1718)

Now if the Sun to Earth transmits his ray,
Yet does not scorch us with too fierce a day;
How small a portion of his pow'r is giv'n
To orbs more distant, and remoter Heav'n?
And of those stars, which our imperfect eye
Has doom'd, and fix'd to one eternal sky,
Each by a native stock of honor great,
May dart strong influence, and diffuse kind heat,
Itself a sun; and with transmissive light
Enliven worlds deny'd to human sight.
Around the circles of their ambient skies
New moons may grow or wane, may set or rise;
And other stars may to those suns be earths;
Give their own elements their proper births;
Divide their climes, or elevate their pole,
See their lands flourish, and their oceans roll;
Yet these great orbs thus radically bright,
Primitive founts, and origins of light,
May each to other (as their diff'rent sphere
Makes or their distance, or their height appear)
Be seen a nobler, or inferior star;
And in that space, which we call air and sky,
Myriads of earths, and moons, and suns may lye
Unmeasur'd, and unknown by human eye.


From Allan Ramsay, "An Ode to the Memory of Sir Isaac Newton" (1727)

This is one of many poems expressing the conviction that so great a man of Newton would surely be able to see other planets at close range on his way to Heaven.

The God-like man now mounts the sky,
Exploring all yon radiant spheres;
And with one view can more descry,
Than here below in eighty years.

Tho' none, with greater strength of soul,
Could rise to more divine a height,
Or range the orbs from pole to pole,
And more improve the humane sight.

Now with full joy he can survey
These worlds, and ev'ry shining blaze,
That countless in the Milky Way
Only through glasses shew their rays.


From David Mallet, The Excursion: a Poem in Two Books (1728)

This poem devotes many pages to the journey of Newton's soul through space after his death. It describes the planets of our solar system at length in a portion that I don't have.

Ten thousand worlds blaze forth; each with his train
Of peopled worlds...
. . . . . . . . . . . .
But how shall mortal wing
Attempt this blue profundity of Heaven,
Unfathomable, endless of extent!
Where unknown suns to unknown systems rise,
Whose numbers who shall tell? stupendous host!
Sun beyond sun, and world to world unseen,
Measureless distance, unconceiv'd by thought!
Awful their order; each the central fire
Of his surrounding stars, whose whirling speed,
Solemn and silent, through the pathless void,
Nor change, nor errour knows. But, their ways,
By reason, bold adventurer, unexplor'd,
Instructed can declare! What search shall find
Their times and seasons! their appointed laws,
Peculiar! their inhabitants of life,
And of intelligence, from scale to scale
Harmonious rising and in fix'd degree;
Numerous orders, each resembling each,
Yet all diverse!
. . . . . . . . . . . .
About me on each hand new wonders rise
In long succession; here pure scenes of light,
Dazzling the view; here nameless worlds afar,
Yet undiscover'd: there a dying Sun,
Grown dim with age, whose orb of flame extinct,
Incredible to tell! thick, vopory mists,
From every shore exhaling, dispreading slow,
And deepening shade on shade; till the faint globe,
Mournful of aspect calls in all his beams.
Millions of lives, that live but in his light,
With horror see, from distant spheres around,
The source of day expire, and all his worlds
At once involv'd in everlasting night!


From James Thomson, The Seasons (1730; this ed. 1746)

Uneducated people of Thomson's time believed comets were portents of the end of the world, an idea even more prevalent in the previous century. Those who were aware of the new astronomical discoveries knew better, but still had little idea of the real nature of comets -- hence his speculation that they might "lend new fuel to declining suns."

. . . Amid the radiant orbs,
That more than deck, that animate the sky,
The life-infusing suns of other worlds,
Lo! from the dread immensity of space
Returning, with accelerated course,
The rushing Comet to the Sun descends;
And as he sinks below the shading earth,
With awful train projected o'er the heavens,
The guilty nations tremble. But, above
Those superstitious horrors that enslave
The fond sequacious herd, to mystic faith
And blind amazement prone, the enlighten'd few,
Whose godlike minds Philosophy exalts,
The glorious stranger hail. They feel a joy
Divinely great; they in their powers exult,
That wondrous force of thought, which mounting spurns
This dusky spot, and measures all the sky;
While, from his far excursion through the wilds
Of barren ether, faithful to his time,
They see the blazing Wonder rise anew,
In seeming terror clad, but kindly bent
To work the will of all-sustaining Love;
From his huge vapoury train perhaps to shake
Reviving moisture on the numerous orbs
Through which his long ellipsis winds; perhaps
To lend new fuel to declining Suns,
To light up worlds, and feed the eternal fire.


From Robert Gambol, The Beauties of the Universe (1732)

These lines are typical of the view expressed by numerous poets who described "cosmic journeys" of departed souls. The soul, Gambol says:

Unbounded in its ken, from prison free
Will clearly view what here we darkly see:
Those planetary worlds, and thousands more,
Now veil'd from human sight, it shall explore.


From Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man (1733-1734)

This often-quoted passage is not, as is sometimes thought, an unusually early acknowledgement that other worlds exist; it's criticism of the practice, already common by 1733, of devoting lengthy poems (as well as prose) to speculation about other solar systems -- an elaboration of his theme that "the proper study of mankind is Man."

Thro' worlds unnumber'd tho' the God be known,
'Tis ours to trace him only in our own.
He who thro' vast immensity can pierce,
See worlds on worlds compose one universe,
Observe how system into system runs,
What other planets circle other suns,
What varied being peoples every star,
May tell why Heav'n has made us as we are.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Whate'er of life all-quick'ning aether keeps,
Or breathes thro' air, or shoots beneath the deeps,
Or pours profuse on earth, one Nature feeds
The vital flame, and swells the genial seeds.


From Henry Brooke, Universal Beauty (1735)

Through various worlds still varying species range,
While order knits, and beautifies by change;
While from th'Unchangeable, the One, the Wise
Still changing emanations rise,
Of substance duplicate, or triple, mix'd,
Single, ambiguous, or free, or fix'd;
From those array'd in Heaven's resplendent robes,
To the brute essence on terrestrial globes.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
One house, one world, one universe divine,
Where countless orbs through countless systems shine;
Systems, which view'd throughout the circuit wide,
Or lost, or scarce the pointed sight abide,
(Through space immense with diminution seen)
Yet boundless to those worlds that roll within;
Each world as boundless to its native race,
That range and wanton through its ample space,
Frequent, through fields, through clouds of fragrance stray,
Or skim the wat'ry or ethereal way.


From Moses Browne, "An Essay on the Universe" (1739)

Browne declared his purpose in this poem was to lead the ladies "to read deep systems" and range from Earth "to stars and suns of boundless space." He offered detailed information about the planets in our solar system, suggesting they might be inhabited:

With creatures, suited to their various seat,
Intense degrees of cold or heat to bear,
Of light, or gloom, a pleasing, proper share,
To them agreeable, by nature blest,
Painful, howe'er, imagin'd to the rest.

Browne thought Sirius to be the nearest star (based on the calcuation of Huygens) and that its distance is more "than mind can soar," to imagine stars still more distant from Earth was to him "a perplexing thought":

Farther from this, than this from earth is plac'd,
Th' ethereal regions with new orbs are grac'd;
Farther than those from this, fresh numbers still
The depths of lost infinity may fill...
What can they be? (thus self-illustrious shown)
What, less than suns? resembling each our own.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Have each (a sovreign in his system's bound)
Their lighted earths, and moons, revolving round,
Inhabitable all? their plants and flow'rs?
Their insects, animals, and reasoning pow'rs?


From John Armstrong, The Art of Preserving Health (1744)

This huge rotundity we tread grows old;
And all the worlds that roll around the Sun,
The Sun himself, shall die, and ancient Night
Again involve the desolate abyss:
'Till the Great Father thro' the lifeless gloom
Extend his arm to light another world,
And bid new planets roll by other laws.
For through the regions of unbounded space,
Where unconfin'd Omnipotence has room,
Being, in various systems, fluctuates still
Between creation and abhorr'd decay:
It ever did, perhaps and ever will.
New worlds are still emerging from the deep;
The old descending, in their turns to rise.


From Edward Young, Night Thoughts on Life, Death and Immortality (1742-1745)

This book-length poem was extremely popular and had many editions; a 19th-century editor wrote that "It is to be seen on the shelf of the cottager with the Family Bible and Pilgrim's Progress" and that Napoleon was said to be particularly fond of it. Hundreds of lines are relevant, though often expressed in terms of religious imagery; these excerpts are just a sample. They contain the earliest expression I've found of the idea that inhabitants of other worlds may be more mature (rather than simply superior) to us, and may have outgrown war.

. . . 'Tis thus the skies
Inform us of superiors numberless,
As much, in excellence, above mankind,
As above earth, in magnitude, the spheres.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
The soul of man was made to walk the skies;
Delightful outlet of her prison here!
There, disincumber'd from her chains, the ties
Of toys terrestrial, she can rove at large;
There, freely can respire, dilate, extend,
In full proportion let loose all her pow'rs;
And, undeluded, grasp at something great.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
How distant some of these nocturnal suns!
So distant, (says the sage) 'twere not absurd
To doubt, if beams set out at nature's birth,
Are not yet arrived at this so foreign world;
Though nothing half so rapid as their flight.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Is this the sole exploit, the single birth,
The solitary son, of Power Divine?
Or has th' Almighty Father, with a breath,
Impregnated the womb of distant space?
Has He not bid, in various provinces,
Brother-creations the dark bowels burst
Of night primeval; barren, now, no more?
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Is not this home creation, in the map
Of universal nature, as a speck,
Like fair Britannia in our little ball;
Exceeding fair, and glorious for its size,
But, elsewhere, far outmeasured, far outshone?
In fancy (for the fact beyond us lies,)
Canst thou not figure it an isle, almost
Too small for notice, in the vast of being;
Sever'd by mighty seas of unbuilt space
From other realms; from ample continents
Of higher life, where nobler natives dwell.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . On nature's Alps I stand,
And see a thousand firmaments beneath!
A thousand systems, as thousand grains!
So much a stranger, and so late arriv'd,
How can man's curious spirit not inquire,
What are the natives of this world sublime,
Of this so foreign, unterrestrial sphere,
Where mortal, untranslated, never stray'd?
"O ye, as distant from my little home,
As swiftest sun-beams in an age can fly!
Far from my native element I roam,
In quest of new, and wonderful, to man.
What province this, of His immense domain,
Whom all obey? Or mortals here, or gods?
Ye bord'rers on the coast of bliss! what are you?
A colony from heav'n? Or, only raised,
By frequent visit from heav'n's neighboring realms
To secondary gods, and half divine?--
Whate'er your nature, this is past dispute,
Far other life you live, far other tongue
You talk, far other thought, perhaps, you think,
Than man. How various are the works of God!
But say, What thought? Is reason here enthroned,
And absolute? or sense in arms against her?
. . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . Know you disease
Or horrid war? With war, this fatal hour
Europa groans (so call we a small field,
Where kings run mad.)
. . . . . . . . . . . .
With you, can rage for plunder make a god?
And bloodshed wash out ev'ry other stain?
But you, perhaps, can't bleed: from matter gross
Your spirits clean, are delicately clad
In fine-spun ether, privileged to soar,
Unloaded, uninfected; how unlike
The lot of man! How few of human race
By their own mud unmurder'd! How we wage
Self-war eternal! Is your painful day
Of hardy conflict o'er? or, are you still
Raw candidates at school? And have you those
Who disaffect reversions, as with us?
But what are we? You never heard of man;
Or earth; the bedlam of the universe!


From Mikhail Lomonosov, "Evening Meditations on Seeing the Aurora Borealis" (1743) Translated from Russian.

Science tells me that each twinkling star
That smiles above us is a peopled sphere,
Or central sun, diffusing light afar;
A link of nature's chain. . . .
Vain is the inquiry--all is darkness, doubt:
This earth is one vast mystery to man.
First find the secrets of this planet out,
Then other planets, other systems scan!


From Soame Jenyns, "An Essay on Virtue" (1752)

. . . Soul and sense diffus'd thro' ev'ry place
Make happiness as infinite as space;
Thousands of suns beyond each other blaze,
Orbs roll o'er orbs, and glow with mutual rays;
Each is a world, where form'd with wondrous art,
Unnumber'd species live thro' every part:
In ev'ry tract of ocean, earth,and skies,
Myriads of creatures still successive rise;
Scarce buds a leaf, or springs the vilest weed,
But little flocks upon its verdure feed;
Nor fruit our palate courts, or flow'rs our smell,
But on its fragrant bosom nations dwell,
All form'd with proper faculties to share
The daily bounties of their Maker's care.


From Phillis Wheatley, "On Imagination" (1773)

Phillis Wheatley was a young black slave educated by a sympathetic mistress; she was the among the first writers in America to publish a volume of poems. The fact that someone in her situation was interested in space shows how widespread that interest had become by the time of the American Revolution.

Imagination! who can sing thy force?
Or who describe the swiftness of thy course?
Soaring through air to find the bright abode,
Th'empyreal palace of the thund'ring God,
We on thy pinions can surpass the wind,
And leave the rolling universe behind,
From star to star the mental optics rove,
Measure the skies, and range the realms above,
There in one view we grasp the mighty whole,
Or with new worlds amaze th'unbounded soul.


From Erasmus Darwin, The Botanic Garden (1791)

Erasmus Darwin was Charles Darwin's grandfather, and is also known for his scientific achievement, as well as a prophetic passage of verse foreseeing powered flight. He based this account of the birth of the universe on the recent discoveries of Herschel.

Through all his realms the kindling Ether runs,
And the mass starts into a million suns;
Earths round each sun with quick explosions burst,
And second planets issue from the first;
Bend, as they journey with projectile force,
In bright ellipses their reluctant course;
Orbs wheel in orbs, round centres centres roll,
And form, self-balanced, one revolving Whole.


From Timothy Dwight, Greenfield Hill (1794)

Unlike most of the other 18th-century writers represented here, who were British, Dwight was American; this poem dealt chiefly with his conception of an ideal society and was dedicated to John Adams.

See strong invention engines strange devise,
And ope the mysteries of earth, seas, and skies;
Aid curious art to finish works refin'd,
And teach abstrusest science to mankind.
Up the dread vault, where stars immensely roll,
To heaven, Herschelian tubes conduct the soul;
Where proud Orion heads th' immortal train,
And opes his lucid window through the main;
Where, far beyond this limitary sky,
Superior worlds of liquid splendour lie;
Far other suns diffuse th' unsetting ray,
And other planets roll, in living day,
Truth, bliss, and virtue, age by age, refine,
And unknown nations bask in life divine.



On to Part II - 19th Century

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