The Star Splitter

Robert Frost

| Basic Celestial Phenomena |

You know Orion always comes up sideways.
Throwing a leg up over our fence of mountains
And rising on his hands, he look in on me
Busy outdoors by lantern-light with something
I should have done by daylight, and indeed,
After the ground is frozen, I should have done
Before it froze, and a gust flings a handful
Of waste leaves at my smoky lantern chimney
To make fun of my way of doing things,
Or else fun of Orion's having caught me.
Has a man, I should like to ask, no rights
These forces are obliged to pay respect to?'
So Brad McLaughlin mingled reckless talk
Of heavenly stars with hugger-mugger farming,
Till having failed at hugger-mugger farming,
He burned his house down for the fire insurance
And spent the proceeds on a telescope
To satisfy a life-long curiosity
About our place among the infinities.

 

'What do you want with one of those blame things?'
I asked him well beforehand. 'Don't you get one!'
'Don't call it blamed; there isn't anything
More blameless in the sense of being less
A weapon in our human fight,' he said.
'I'll have one if I sell my farm to buy it.'
There where he moved the rocks to plow the ground
And plowed between the rocks he couldn't move,
Few farms changed hands; so rather than spend years
Trying to sell his farm and then not selling,
He burned his house down for the fire insurance
And bought the telescope with what it came to.
He had been heard to say be several:
'The best thing that we're put here for's to see;
The strongest thing that's given us to see with's
A telescope. Someone is every town
Seems to me owes it to the town to keep one.
In Littleton it may as well be me.'
After such loose talk it was no surprise
When he did what he did and burned his house down....

....

This is just the first half of the story, here left incomplete so as not to violate copyright guidelines but reproduced at least in part in order to hook you into reading the entire poem. Get a copy of the Complete Poems of Robert Frost (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1949) and discover how Brad Mclaughlin's telescope became known as the "Star-splitter," and how it changed the people in his town.

You'll also discover that Frost wrote many wonderful poems related to astronomy, cosmology, and the night sky. Look for these titles:

 

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