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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems

The Occultation of Orion

  • Mr. Longfellow says: “Astronomically speaking, this title is incorrect; as I apply to a constellation what can properly be applied to some of its stars only. But my observation is made from the hill of song, and not from that of science; and will, I trust, be found sufficiently accurate for the present purpose.”

  • I SAW, as in a dream sublime,

    The balance in the hand of Time.

    O’er East and West its beam impended;

    And Day, with all its hours of light,

    Was slowly sinking out of sight,

    While, opposite, the scale of Night

    Silently with the stars ascended.

    Like the astrologers of eld,

    In that bright vision I beheld

    Greater and deeper mysteries.

    I saw, with its celestial keys,

    Its chords of air, its frets of fire,

    The Samian’s great Æolian lyre,

    Rising through all its sevenfold bars,

    From earth unto the fixèd stars.

    And through the dewy atmosphere,

    Not only could I see, but hear,

    Its wondrous and harmonious strings,

    In sweet vibration, sphere by sphere,

    From Dian’s circle light and near,

    Onward to vaster and wider rings,

    Where, chanting through his beard of snows,

    Majestic, mournful, Saturn goes,

    And down the sunless realms of space

    Reverberates the thunder of his bass.

    Beneath the sky’s triumphal arch

    This music sounded like a march,

    And with its chorus seemed to be

    Preluding some great tragedy.

    Sirius was rising in the east;

    And, slow ascending one by one,

    The kindling constellations shone.

    Begirt with many a blazing star,

    Stood the great giant Algebar,

    Orion, hunter of the beast!

    His sword hung gleaming by his side,

    And, on his arm, the lion’s hide

    Scattered across the midnight air

    The golden radiance of its hair.

    The moon was pallid, but not faint;

    And beautiful as some fair saint,

    Serenely moving on her way

    In hours of trial and dismay.

    As if she heard the voice of God,

    Unharmed with naked feet she trod

    Upon the hot and burning stars,

    As on the glowing coals and bars,

    That were to prove her strength and try

    Her holiness and her purity.

    Thus moving on, with silent pace,

    And triumph in her sweet, pale face,

    She reached the station of Orion.

    Aghast he stood in strange alarm!

    And suddenly from his outstretched arm

    Down fell the red skin of the lion

    Into the river at his feet.

    His mighty club no longer beat

    The forehead of the bull; but he

    Reeled as of yore beside the sea,

    When, blinded by Œnopion,

    He sought the blacksmith at his forge,

    And, climbing up the mountain gorge,

    Fixed his blank eyes upon the sun.

    Then, through the silence overhead,

    An angel with a trumpet said,

    “Forevermore, forevermore,

    The reign of violence is o’er!”

    And, like an instrument that flings

    Its music on another’s strings,

    The trumpet of the angel cast

    Upon the heavenly lyre its blast,

    And on from sphere to sphere the words

    Reëchoed down the burning chords,—

    “Forevermore, forevermore,

    The reign of violence is o’er!”