Monday, 16 November 2015

Night Thoughts While Travelling by 杜甫

One of my favourite astronomy books, or series of books, has to be Burnham's Celestial Handbook, a three volume collection of reference material on the stars and objects in the night sky. 

What I particularly like is that among all the wonderful astronomical data, the author Robert Burnham Jr also included a large amount of ancient history and folklore of the stars and constellations.

Plus there's a very a good selection of poetry relevant to the subject in question.  

Whilst reading through the pages concerning Sagittarius the Archer, my eye was drawn to a beautiful translation of a poem by the great Chinese poet Du Fu or Tu Fu as I stubbornly refer to him... Though correctly his name would be 杜甫

Night Thoughts While Traveling
A light breeze rustles the reeds
Along the river banks. The
Mast of my lonely boat soars
Into the night. Stars blossom
Over the vast desert of
Waters. Moonlight flows on the
Surging river. My poems have
Made me famous but I grow
Old, ill and tired, blown hither
And yon; I am like a gull
Lost between heaven and earth.

Translation by Kenneth Rexroth 

I have to say there are many translations of this great poem, many of them are bloody awful, but thankfully Kenneth Rexroth's version speaks to me. 

On the next clear evening when the sky is full of stars  I will copy this poem to paper, take it outside and recite it out loudly to the stars above.... I invite you to do the same...

Where have all the fireballs gone....? 
It's been pretty poor astronomy wise these last couple of weeks. Lots of cloud and rain and more rain and cloud etc and blah blah..!!   

Even the recent Taurid meteor shower hasn't revealed one solitary blazing fragment.... so far. 

Usually by now, I have seen at least one. Not this year!

Over the last few years, November has consistently hurled several fireballs my way.. 

Out of all the annual meteor showers, the Taurids, as far as I can tell, seem to be the most consistent for producing blazing fireballs...

I hope to see at least one before the end of the month. Come on clouds ... CLEAR OFF!!

Jupiter rising....
Only a couple more weeks and Jupiter will be clearing the "dancing trees" at the end of our garden. 

I call them dancing trees because they always seem to be moving. Just the slightest breeze and they are off...!  Last night Sirius was winking on and off through the ghostly limbs of a swaying ash tree.

Sketches from 2014
Thankfully at the start of December,  Jupiter will have risen above the dancing disco by about 6.00 am, which will give me plenty of time to grab a few Jovian sketches.

Lets hope we get some clear night skies soon... I have some poetry to recite.

Clear poetic skies 



  1. Nice Sketches Mark, I agree, Burnham's is essential reading to get a greater depth of enjoyment and appreciation for the night sky.

  2. Ash tree discotheque
    Blocking light from Jupiter.
    Sound of chainsaw soon.

  3. ah Kenneth Rextroth, father of the beats, his moving elegy to Dylan Thomas, Thou shalt not kill , well worth checking out, all the best.

  4. Thanks Kim... I'd be lost without my Burnhams... I like your astroblog, beautiful drawings of doubles... I much prefer the sketching of observations... Nice one Kim.. :0)

    Hi Roy... I love your Haiku... if I had my way "sound of the chainsaw" it would be...haha .....brilliant haiku :0)

    Hi Dave... I had no idea of his elegy to Dylan Thomas, thank you for that.. I've had a quick look at it over on your it (blog & poem)... Catch you soon...

  5. cheers ... nice one.Your blog very inspiring by the way.thanks