Justus Sustermans: Portrait of Galileo Galilei, 1636

Justus Sustermans: Portrait of Galileo Galilei, 1636

Early in this blog’s life, I posted five poems from the mid-’90s, which I collectively call Divinations (after the book that would have contained them all). If you missed them, feel free to filter using the “Poems” tag, and there they are. (One of them, Camille Claudel, is far and away my most popular post, with nearly twice as many hits as the runner-up.)

Those five, out of the total of 25 poems, were the ones I could publish unchanged – without undue embarrassment – nearly 20 years later.

Recently re-reading Galileo, always one of my favorites, finally alerted me to the fact that some of the poems were worth revisiting, with a view to some judicious editing which would magically make them publishable.

In this case, “judicious” meant: excising an entirely separate autobiographical strand which had no place in this poem. Mr. Galilei stands quite well enough on his own.

A shout-out here to my esteemed musical colleagues Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumbel, whose song Galileo (from their wonderful album Legends) is referenced herein.


Miracle glass lift your skyward eyes
 cross voids of open mind expanding space
Now our Earth moves!
The tremors some feel
 you radiate at storm centre
  as Copernicus’ heretic sun

Eyes holy-papered o’er
 they fancy you a vandal
Your lenses hurled in church
 smashing mighty bloodstained glass

Author before authority –
 dare defy such certain personnel?
Trembling at a moon imperfect –
 untheoretical, O heretical!

Frightful impossible Jupiter’s moons
 disarming Biblical canons
Loathsome spotted sun
 a blight to the pious smug

Questions like yours find
 their answer to the Renaissance Man
  in that cold windowless chamber
Eager shapes of tongue control
Cutting-edge theocracy
 doth thumb its screws at truth

Naive champion of sense
The dogma-fat hunger not
 for knowledge as do you
Urban sub-fools roll
 their blackballing eyes

Such creatures, blind to themselves
 expect history to remember them
Laughable, idiot’s demand!

True human peaceful mind
 vindicates in honest time
Damns you not for surface surrender
 to faceless shadow torturing fear

Blameless, violated genius –
 sit you in the sun you raised
  meditating on betrayal?

I hear that sunlight: high F-sharp
 sung by a violin across centuries
Lovely song in your name
 reverse Time’s arrow to free you

Healing sun, heart of our world
 honour your courage
Cleanse your damnation
 facing down the murderous
  structure of history
Hear you sir, this absolution now?