The following article is a guest post by Kaden Hampton, based in Temecula, California. This article was originally written as an essay for his AP Literature and Composition class at River Springs Charter School. We thought it was so good that it deserved a spot here on Serious Wonder. Enjoy.
Space, however, is not the only thing that has filled us with wonder for hundreds if not thousands of years. Literature, specifically poetry, has captured our amazement and curiosity of nature and has caused us to ask deep philosophical questions about life and the nature of human existence. One period in poetry, in particular, has expanded upon this idea: the appreciation of nature. This period, known as the Romantics period, was a productive and inquisitive time in human literature and philosophy that gave people a new outlook on life and how we should appreciate the natural world more. The Romantics period was led by seven poetic pioneers. Percy Shelley, John Keats, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Samuel Coleridge, William Blake, and Robert Burns each gave us a new perspective into the natural world in addition to creating this new form of poetry. These seven poets each share characteristics in their writing similar to that of the characteristics of seven distinctive astronomical objects in various different ways.
Supernovas are large, violent, and brilliant displays that occur at the end of a star’s life cycle. These explosions are so large and packed full of energy that it can be seen by almost anyone in a nearby location and feel the effects of these tremendously alluring displays by our universe. Poet Percy Shelley shares many similarities to supernovas which can be seen throughout his writings. In Percy Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind,” Shelley’s writing style is so emotionally packed that it causes readers to feel the deep emotional meaning behind his works, as seen in the quote, “As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need. Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!” (“Ode to the West Wind,” Lines 5557) Shelley’s emotionally packed pieces have lasting effects on readers that continue to be appreciated by most who study any of his works.
In the center of our milky way galaxy, and countless others that share similarities between one another, lies a supermassive black hole. An infinitely dense tear in space and time whose sole purpose is to pull everything in the surrounding area into it with its intense gravitational pull. Though many may see black holes as these dangerous and scary objects, there is a sense of beauty behind them that not everyone sees.
Poet Jonathan Keats shares many similarities to black holes in both his writing style and his personal life. Keats had a very emotional upbringing in which most of his family members died from disease early on in his lifetime. This emotional damage that was caused to Keats can be seen in his dark and emotionally charged poems that works almost like a pit that draws readers in with its dark themes. Keats’ poetry is beautiful in its own way, however, and even though his pieces are very emotional in nature, they are still filled with beauty as seen in the quote from Keats famous poem “Ode on Melancholy,” “She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die; And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips, Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh.” (“Ode to Melancholy,” Lines 2123) Keats’ poetry shows us that even though something may be dark in nature, they can still be beautiful similar to that of a black hole.
Nebulas are large clouds of dust, hydrogen, and helium gas that float amongst space similar to those of clouds here on earth. These spectacular clumps of debris are the remnants of destroyed stars, planets, comets, asteroids, and other objects that come together to create new versions of what was previously one. In a sense, Nebulas are essentially responsible for the creation of all that we appreciate around us. Poet Samuel Coolridge was a pioneer in the field of Romantic poetry and was one of the most influential poets for this style of poetry. Coolridge began at the end of the age of reason, which was a time of satirical poetry. He and other poets during the time used the remnants from the age of reason and created an entirely new form of poetry. Essentially, Coolridge helped define what Romantic poetry is and helped both poets and readers understand that Romanticism is about the appreciation of life and the natural world that we live in as seen in Coolridge’s “To Nature” in the quote, “Deep, heartfelt, inward joy that closely clings; And trace in leaves and flowers that round me lie.” (“To Nature,” Lines 34)
We often catch ourselves looking up at the night’s sky to look at the moon. This piece of rock that orbits the Earth 238,900 miles away is and always has been an object that has captivated us for thousands of years. The Moon has been a sort of guardian of the night that even though it is so simplistic, it is so awe inspiring to those lucky enough to gaze upon it. Poet Robert Burns also shares this idea of finding the grace in everyday common items such as the Moon. Burns has a unique take on the natural world in which there is both beauty and gloom in everything around us, much like the light and dark sides of the Moon. In Burns’ poem “To a Mountain Daisy,” Burns talks about the beauty of common things like a daisy, but also explains the meaning behind them as seen in the quote, “Cauld blew the bitterbiting north, Upon thy early, humble birth; Yet cheerfully thou glinted forth.” (“To a Mountain Daisy,” Lines 1315)
When you look up at the night’s sky and see all of the single stars in space, almost half of the stars you see are actually two stars that are in the same solar system known as a Binary Star System. These spectacular marvels are quite something to behold, two stars in the same star system which will pull energy from one another almost as if they are connected indefinitely. On their own, a single star from a Binary Star System itself is beautiful. However, if the two stars come together to form one of these systems, something sensational happens. These two stars, so different but yet so similar at the same time, make up a bigger whole than they could on their own, making them quite the thing to marvel at.
William Blake, author of the two books Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, reflect the idea that two great halves can make an even greater whole. Both books on their own are great reads that make the reader explore the world in two separate ways for their respective book. Together, however, the two books contrast one another in a way that allows the reader to see two completely different perspectives on a topic, making the two such interesting reads. The quotes from Blake’s “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” show the drastic difference between the two poems and how they compliment each other quite well, “Tyger Tyger burning bright, In the forests of the night: What immortal hand or eye, Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?” (“The Tyger,” Lines 14) and “Little Lamb who made thee Dost thou know who made thee?” (“The Lamb,” Line 1) This idea of two pieces coming together as one great whole can be seen in both Song of Innocence / Experience and in that of Binary Star Systems.
Our universe is filled with many beautiful things that we do not get to see everyday. One thing many people get to see at least once in their life, however, is the spectacle that is a comet. These large pieces of ice come from the outer regions of the solar system and are heated up by the light of their stars, causing the melting of the surface ice of the comet, which then creates the tails that we are so familiar with. These tails are millions of miles long and can be seen by many, even after the comet has passed. Poet William Wordsworth shares many similarities to that of a comet that is brought into the inner solar system from the outer asteroid belt. Both came from a darker background and were, in a way, pulled into the light. As both the comet and Wordsworth begin their journey, they begin to make this fantastic trail that many people can see for a period of time – a sort of legacy. Wordsworth’s elegant writing style, which captivates his audience, is his own sort of tail behind the comet. Wordsworth’s writing style can be seen in his poem “I Wandered as Lonely as a Cloud,” as seen in the quote, “Continuous as the stars that shine, And twinkle on the milky way, They stretched in never ending line.” (“I Wandered as Lonely as a Cloud,” Lines 79)
In the universe, there is one event that is so colossal and magnificent, it is hard for many to envision it. The merging of two galaxies can be an extremely violent event which can lead to thousands if not millions of stars, planets, etc. collide into one another, causing cataclysmic events to occur all across the two galaxies. The only function of these merging galaxies is to consume as many stars, planets, and other objects in space by pulling it in with their intense gravitational pull. The merging of two galaxies is a dangerous event, but like most things, it has a sense of beauty to it. Though its only goal is to get bigger, it creates even larger and more elegant galaxies at the end of the event.
Poet Lord Byron shares many similarities to that of a merging galaxy. Being more arrogant and concerned with fame and being bigger, Byron hoped to increase his popularity through his poetry. Byron used some forms of poetry from the age of reason, such as satire and parody, in his poetry which made him somewhat of a controversial figure among the Romantic poets of the time. Though his pieces, at times, could be filled with self appreciation and parody, something many Romantic poets retired from, Byron’s poetry was still beautiful in its own way. This can be seen in one of Byron’s famous pieces “She Walks in Beauty” in the quote, “Which waves in every raven tress, Or softly lightens o’er her face, Where thoughts serenely sweet express, How pure, how dear their dwellingplace.” (“She Walks in Beauty,” Lines 912) This desire to expand in order to create something beautiful is shared between both Byron and a merging galaxy who both absorb leftover debris from previous times to create something new.
With all of the given information above, it is clear that the connections between these heavenly bodies and the personalities and writing styles do not differ as much as one previously believed. Through the realization of their writing style, it is easy for one to make the comparisons between these two magnificent sights which have, and will, continue to capture the imagination of people for ages.
Psachoff, Jay M. Peterson Field Guides: Stars and Planets. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
Keats, John. Selected Poetry of John Keats. N.Y.: N.A.L., 1966. Print.
Wordsworth, William, and Mark Van Doren. Selected Poetry of William Wordsworth. New York: Modern Library, 2001. Print.