The Old Astronomer To His Pupil by Sarah Williams

A couple months ago I went to a local planetarium for a star watching party and as I gazed upon the sky, I was reminded me of this poem verse, “I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night,” from The Old Astronomer To His Pupil by Sarah Williams. I somewhat forgot about the memory until I was reminded of that night when I saw news of the Falcon 9 launch happening in several days not too far from where I live. The famous verse is often attributed to Galileo Galilei but nope, it’s from Sarah Williams, a 19th century English poet and novelist (I love this verse and astronomy so much I even have a t-shirt of it). Here is the poem in it’s entirety – enjoy!

Reach me down my Tycho Brahé, I would know him when we meet,
When I share my later science, sitting humbly at his feet;
He may know the law of all things, yet be ignorant of how
We are working to completion, working on from then to now.

Pray remember that I leave you all my theory complete,
Lacking only certain data for your adding, as is meet,
And remember men will scorn it, ‘tis original and true,
And the obloquy of newness may fall bitterly on you.

But, my pupil, as my pupil you have learned the worth of scorn,
You have laughed with me at pity, we have joyed to be forlorn,
What for us are all distractions of men’s fellowship and wiles;
What for us the Goddess Pleasure with her meretricious smiles.

You may tell that German College that their honor comes too late,
But they must not waste repentance on the grizzly savant’s fate.
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

What, my boy, you are not weeping? You should save your eyes for sight;
You will need them, mine observer, yet for many another night.
I leave none but you, my pupil, unto whom my plans are known.
You “have none but me,” you murmur, and I “leave you quite alone”?

Well then, kiss me, – since my mother left her blessing on my brow,
There has been a something wanting in my nature until now;
I can dimly comprehend it, – that I might have been more kind,
Might have cherished you more wisely, as the one I leave behind.

I “have never failed in kindness”? No, we lived too high for strife,–
Calmest coldness was the error which has crept into our life;
But your spirit is untainted, I can dedicate you still
To the service of our science: you will further it? you will!

There are certain calculations I should like to make with you,
To be sure that your deductions will be logical and true;
And remember, “Patience, Patience,” is the watchword of a sage,
Not to-day nor yet to-morrow can complete a perfect age.

I have sown, like Tycho Brahé, that a greater man may reap;
But if none should do my reaping, ’twill disturb me in my sleep
So be careful and be faithful, though, like me, you leave no name;
See, my boy, that nothing turn you to the mere pursuit of fame.

I must say Good-bye, my pupil, for I cannot longer speak;
Draw the curtain back for Venus, ere my vision grows too weak:
It is strange the pearly planet should look red as fiery Mars,–
God will mercifully guide me on my way amongst the stars.

If You Want Quality Writing, Stop Offering Crap Pay

I was scrolling through freelance writing jobs on LinkedIn yesterday and I came across one that struck a nerve with me. Not because of the company or content topics, but the compensation…$5 for 400 words?! Are you kidding me??? That’s not even minimum wage. I know compensation in freelance work is a tricky subject, especially when it comes to writing. Per word rates and flat fees vary but even $0.01 per word (what the rate in the job post breaks down to) is appallingly low by most standards.freelance writer job ad.jpgQuality content, especially when research is involved, takes time. The sad thing is this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen before. The only people I can see accepting this pay rate is people from other countries. Now, there’s nothing wrong with hiring people from overseas but don’t be surprised if there are grammatical errors, plagiarism, and bad/outdated SEO practices like keyword stuffing.

I understand that if you’re a startup or small business, it might be hard to justify paying an experienced freelance writer at a higher rate than somebody who’s cheap. Really, I get it. But you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it in the end. Cutting corners on your content (whether it’s for your website, videos, or sales collateral) may benefit you in the short term, but it won’t lead to more sales in the future and it could even damage your brand’s image.

I think Kristina Halvorson, CEO and founder of Brain Traffic, sums it up best: “Better content means better business.”

A Letter to a Prospective Lexicographer

Curiosity about lexicographers struck me today when I watched a video in my Facebook news feed about the difficulty of defining millennials’ usage of “basic” from the point of view of a lexicographer. I started to wonder, “How does someone become a lexicographer? Maybe this something I can do?!” But after reading this very interesting post, I think I will just admire this calling from afar.

harm·less drudg·ery

We regularly receive letters from people who want an editorial job at M-W and ask for more information on lexicography. It’s my job to answer those letters. Here is the response I wish I could send.

Thank you for your interest in becoming an editor at Merriam-Webster.  I am happy to share some information on the field of lexicography with you.

There are only three formal requirements for becoming a Merriam-Webster editor. First, we respectfully ask that you be a native speaker of English. I think I should break this to you now, before you begin shopping for tweeds and practicing your “tally ho what”: we focus primarily on American English. It’s not that we don’t like British English and its speakers. Indeed, we have an instinctual, deep love for any people who, upon encountering a steamed pudding with currants in it for the first time, thought, “The name of…

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Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr with Poetry

I was scrolling through Facebook this morning at MLK Day posts and I came across this poem from singer Chris Crocker. I loved it so much I just had to share it. Dr. King is such an inspiration and I think his words are as relevant today as they were when Dr. King was alive. Although he’s not physically with us anymore, Dr. King’s message and character will live on forever.

mlk-poem-chris-crocker

Source: facebook.com/ChrisCrockerOFFICIAL

When Running Was for Weirdos [Video]

Over the last couple years, I’ve gotten into running partly from my desire to get fit but also because races are actually pretty fun! So far, I’ve completed two half marathons (currently training for my third), one 15k, five 10ks, and numerous 5ks. Running is so popular nowadays that it’s hard to imagine that it wasn’t too long ago when people would have thought you were weird if you liked to run for exercise, let alone enjoyment. That’s why I thought this video from Vox was an eye-opener, and it made me appreciate those who dared to stap on their sneakers and leave the haters in their dust. Check it out!

The “Avoid Adverbs” Rule is (Very) Wrong

Ahhh…the poor maligned adverb. I completely agree with Matt Moore’s 2012 post (and not just because we share the same last name) that there is a time and place for adverbs. Yes, we should avoid sloppy writing and be precise with our words, but that doesn’t mean adverbs should be avoided at all costs. On the contrary, adverbs are a basic tenet of language. “To advise young writers to get rid of all their adverbs is like advising a pitcher with four great pitches to throw only three of them — it’s professional suicide,” Cris Freese, Writer’s Digest.

“Down to a Sunless Sea” by Neil Gaiman

A couple months ago a friend/coworker lent me his copy of “The Books of Magic” as my first introduction to Neil Gaiman. He’s a huge fan and was eager to convert me. So far I’m hooked and have started reading “The Sandman” series – I’ve even begun adding other works by Gaimain to my Goodread’s list. Fast forward to earlier this week, this same friend sent me a short story by Gaiman and I figured I would share it here because I really enjoyed it 🙂

Original source: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/mar/22/down-sunless-sea-neil-gaiman-short-story

The Thames is a filthy beast: it winds through London like a snake, or a sea serpent. All the rivers flow into it, the Fleet and the Tyburn and the Neckinger, carrying all the filth and scum and waste, the bodies of cats and dogs and the bones of sheep and pigs down into the brown water of the Thames, which carries them east into the estuary and from there into the North Sea and oblivion.

It is raining in London. The rain washes the dirt into the gutters, and it swells streams into rivers, rivers into powerful things. The rain is a noisy thing, splashing and pattering and rattling the rooftops. If it is clean water as it falls from the skies it only needs to touch London to become dirt, to stir dust and make it mud.

Nobody drinks it, neither the rain water nor the river water. They make jokes about Thames water killing you instantly, and it is not true. There are mudlarks who will dive deep for thrown pennies then come up again, spout the river water, shiver and hold up their coins. They do not die, of course, or not of that, although there are no mudlarks over fifteen years of age.

The woman does not appear to care about the rain.

She walks the Rotherhithe docks, as she has done for years, for decades: nobody knows how many years, because nobody cares. She walks the docks, or she stares out to sea. She examines the ships, as they bob at anchor. She must do something, to keep body and soul from dissolving their partnership, but none of the folk of the dock have the foggiest idea what this could be.

You take refuge from the deluge beneath a canvas awning put up by a sailmaker. You believe yourself to be alone under there, at first, for she is statue-still and staring out across the water, even though there is nothing to be seen through the curtain of rain. The far side of the Thames has vanished.

And then she sees you. She sees you and she begins to talk, not to you, oh no, but to the grey water that falls from the grey sky into the grey river. She says, “My son wanted to be a sailor,” and you do not know what to reply, or how to reply. You would have to shout to make yourself heard over the roar of the rain, but she talks, and you listen. You discover yourself craning and straining to catch her words.

“My son wanted to be a sailor.

“I told him not to go to sea. I’m your mother, I said. The sea won’t love you like I love you, she’s cruel. But he said, Oh Mother, I need to see the world. I need to see the sun rise in the tropics, and watch the Northern Lights dance in the Arctic sky, and most of all I need to make my fortune and then, when it’s made I will come back to you, and build you a house, and you will have servants, and we will dance, mother, oh how we will dance…

“And what would I do in a fancy house? I told him. You’re a fool with your fine talk. I told him of his father, who never came back from the sea – some said he was dead and lost overboard, while some swore blind they’d seen him running a whore-house in Amsterdam.

“It’s all the same. The sea took him.

“When he was twelve years old, my boy ran away, down to the docks, and he shipped on the first ship he found, to Flores in the Azores, they told me.

“There’s ships of ill-omen. Bad ships. They give them a lick of paint after each disaster, and a new name, to fool the unwary.

“Sailors are superstitious. The word gets around. This ship was run aground by its captain, on orders of the owners, to defraud the insurers; and then, all mended and as good as new, it gets taken by pirates; and then it takes shipment of blankets and becomes a plague ship crewed by the dead, and only three men bring it into port in Harwich…

“My son had shipped on a stormcrow ship. It was on the homeward leg of the journey, with him bringing me his wages – for he was too young to have spent them on women and on grog, like his father – that the storm hit.

“He was the smallest one in the lifeboat.

“They said they drew lots fairly, but I do not believe it. He was smaller than them. After eight days adrift in the boat, they were so hungry. And if they did draw lots, they cheated.

“They gnawed his bones clean, one by one, and they gave them to his new mother, the sea. She shed no tears and took them without a word. She’s cruel.

“Some nights I wish he had not told me the truth. He could have lied.

“They gave my boy’s bones to the sea, but the ship’s mate – who had known my husband, and known me too, better than my husband thought he did, if truth were told – he kept a bone, as a keepsake.

“When they got back to land, all of them swearing my boy was lost in the storm that sank the ship, he came in the night, and he told me the truth of it, and he gave me the bone, for the love there had once been between us.

“I said, you’ve done a bad thing, Jack. That was your son that you’ve eaten.

“The sea took him too, that night. He walked into her, with his pockets filled with stones, and he kept walking. He’d never learned to swim.

“And I put the bone on a chain to remember them both by, late at night, when the wind crashes the ocean waves and tumbles them on to the sand, when the wind howls around the houses like a baby crying.”

The rain is easing, and you think she is done, but now, for the first time, she looks at you, and appears to be about to say something. She has pulled something from around her neck, and now she is reaching it out to you.

“Here,” she says. Her eyes, when they meet yours, are as brown as the Thames. “Would you like to touch it?”

You want to pull it from her neck, to toss it into the river for the mudlarks to find or to lose. But instead you stumble out from under the canvas awning, and the water of the rain runs down your face like someone else’s tears.