John Kepler, from the chimney corner, watched
His wife Susannah, with her sleeves rolled back
Making a salad in a big blue bowl.
The thick tufts of his black rebellious hair
Brushed into sleek submission; his trim beard
Snug as the soft round body of a thrush
Between the white wings of his fan-shaped ruff
(His best, with the fine lace border) spoke of guests
Expected; and his quick grey humorous eyes,
His firm red whimsical pleasure-loving mouth,
And all those elvish twinklings of his face,
Were lit with eagerness. Only between his brows,
Perplexed beneath that subtle load of dreams,
Two delicate shadows brooded.
"What does it mean?
Sir Henry Wotton's letter breathed a hint
That Italy is prohibiting my book,"
He muttered. "Then, if Austria damns it too,
Susannah mine, we may be forced to choose
Between the truth and exile. When he comes,
He'll tell me more. Ambassadors, I suppose,
Can only write in cipher, while our world
Is steered to heaven by murderers and thieves;
But, if he'd wrapped his friendly warnings up
In a verse or two, I might have done more work
These last three days, eh, Sue?"
"Look, John," said she,
"What beautiful hearts of lettuce! Tell me now
How shall I mix it? Will your English guest
Turn up his nose at dandelion leaves
As crisp and young as these? They've just the tang
Of bitterness in their milk that gives a relish
And makes all sweet; and that's philosophy, John.
Now--these spring onions! Would his Excellency
Like sugared rose-leaves better?"
"He's a poet,
Not an ambassador only, so I think
He'll like a cottage salad."
"A poet, John!
I hate their arrogant little insect ways!
I'll put a toadstool in."
"Poets, dear heart,
Can be divided into two clear kinds,--
One that, by virtue of a half-grown brain,
Lives in a silly world of his own making,
A bubble, blown by himself, in which he flits
And dizzily bombinates, chanting 'I, I, I,'
For there is nothing in the heavens above
Or the earth, or hell beneath, but goes to swell
His personal pronoun. Bring him some dreadful news
His dearest friend is burned to death,--You'll see
The monstrous insect strike an attitude
And shape himself into one capital I,
A rubric, with red eyes. You'll see him use
The coffin for his pedestal, hear him mouth
His 'I, I, I' instructing haggard grief
Concerning his odd ego. Does he chirp
Of love, it's 'I, I, I' Narcissus, love,
Myself, Narcissus, imaged in those eyes;
For all the love-notes that he sounds are made
After the fashion of passionate grasshoppers,
By grating one hind-leg across another.
Nor does he learn to sound that mellower 'You,'
Until his bubble bursts and leaves him drowned,
An insect in a soap-sud.
But there's another kind, whose mind still moves
In vital concord with the soul of things;
So that it thinks in music, and its thoughts
Pulse into natural song. A separate voice,
And yet caught up by the surrounding choirs,
There, in the harmonies of the Universe,
Losing himself, he saves his soul alive."
"John, I'm afraid!"--
"Afraid of what, Susannah?"--
"Afraid to put those Ducklings on to roast.
Your friend may miss his road; and, if he's late,
My little part of the music will be spoiled."--
"He won't, Susannah. Bad poets are always late.
Good poets, at times, delay a note or two;
But all the great are punctual as the sun.
What's that? He's early! That's his knock, I think!"--
"The Lord have mercy, John, there's nothing ready!
Take him into your study and talk to him,
Talk hard. He's come an hour before his time;
And I've to change my dress. I'll into the kitchen!"

Then, in a moment, all the cottage rang
With greetings; hand grasped hand; his Excellency
Forgot the careful prologue he'd prepared,
And made an end of mystery. He had brought
A message from his wisdom-loving king
Who, hearing of new menaces to the light
In Europe, urged the illustrious Kepler now
To make his home in England. There, his thought
And speech would both be free.
"My friend," said Wotton,
"I have moved in those old strongholds of the night,
And heard strange mutterings. It is not many years
Since Bruno burned. There's trouble brewing too,
For one you know, I think,--the Florentine
Who made that curious optic tube."--
"You mean
The man at Padua, Galileo?"--
"They will not dare or need. Proof or disproof
Rests with their eyes."--
"Kepler, have you not heard
Of those who, fifteen hundred years ago,
Had eyes and would not see? Eyes quickly close
When souls prefer the dark."--
"So be it. Other and younger eyes will see.
Perhaps that's why God gave the young a spice
Of devilry. They'll go look, while elders gasp;
And, when the Devil and Truth go hand in hand,
God help their enemies. You will send my thanks,
My grateful thanks, Sir Henry, to your king.
To-day I cannot answer you. I must think.
It would be very difficult My wife
Would find it hard to leave her native land.
Say nothing yet before her."
Then, to hide
Their secret from Susannah, Kepler poured
His mind out, and the world's dead branches bloomed.
For, when he talked, another spring began
To which our May was winter; and, in the boughs
Of his delicious thoughts, like feathered choirs,
Bits of old rhyme, scraps from the Sabine farm,
Celestial phrases from the Shepherd King,
And fluttering morsels from Catullus sang.
Much was fantastic. All was touched with light
That only genius knows to steal from heaven.
He spoke of poetry, as the "flowering time
Of knowledge," called it "thought in passionate tune
With those great rhythms that steer the moon and sun;
Thought in such concord with the soul of things
That it can only move, like tides and stars,
And man's own beating heart, and the wings of birds,
In law, whose service only sets them free."
Therefore it often leaps to the truth we seek,
Clasping it, as a lover clasps his bride
In darkness, ere the sage can light his lamp.
And so, in music, men might find the road
To truth, at many a point, where sages grope.
One day, a greater Plato would arise
To write a new philosophy, he said,
Showing how music is the golden clue
To all the windings of the world's dark maze.
Himself had used it, partly proved it, too,
In his own book,--the Harmonies of the World.
'All that the years discover points one way
To this great ordered harmony," he said,
"Revealed on earth by music. Planets move
In subtle accord like notes of one great song
Audible only to the Artificer,
The Eternal Artist. There's no grief, no pain,
But music--follow it simply as a clue,
A microcosmic pattern of the whole--
Can show you, somewhere in its golden scheme,
The use of all such discords; and, at last,
Their exquisite solution. Then darkness breaks
Into diviner light, love's agony climbs
Through death to life, and evil builds up heaven.
Have you not heard, in some great symphony,
Those golden mathematics making clear
The victory of the soul? Have you not heard
The very heavens opening?
Do those fools
Who thought me an infidel then, still smile at me
For trying to read the stars in terms of song,
Discern their orbits, measure their distances,
By musical proportions? Let them smile,
My folly at least revealed those three great laws;
Gave me the golden vases of the Egyptians,
To set in the great new temple of my God
Beyond the bounds of Egypt.
They will forget
My methods, doubtless, as the years go by,
And the world's wisdom shuts its music out.
The dust will gather on all my harmonies;
Or scholars turn my pages listlessly,
Glance at the musical phrases, and pass on,
Not troubling even to read one Latin page.
Yet they'll accept those great results as mine.
I call them mine. How can I help exulting,
Who climbed my ladder of music to the skies
And found, by accident, let them call it so,
Or by the inspiration of that Power
Which built His world of music, those three laws:--
First, how the speed of planets round the sun
Bears a proportion, beautifully precise
As music, to their silver distances;
Next, that although they seem to swerve aside
From those plain circles of old Copernicus
Their paths were not less rhythmical and exact,
But followed always that most exquisite curve
In its most perfect form, the pure ellipse;
Third, that although their speed from point to point
Appeared to change, their radii always moved
Through equal fields of space in equal times.
Was this my infidelity, was this
Less full of beauty, less divine in truth,
Than their dull chaos? You, the poet will know
How, as those dark perplexities grew clear,
And old anomalous discords changed to song,
My whole soul bowed and cried, Almighty God
These are Thy thoughts, I am thinking after Thee!
I hope that Tycho knows. I owed so much
To Tycho Brahe; for it was he who built
The towers from which I hailed those three great laws.
How strange and far away it all seems now.
The thistles grow upon that little isle
Where Tycho's great Uraniborg once was.
Yet, for a few sad years, before it fell
Into decay and ruin, there was one
Who crept about its crumbling corridors,
And lit the fire of memory on its hearth."--
Wotton looked quickly up, "I think I have heard
Something of that. You mean poor Jeppe, his dwarf.
Fynes Moryson, at the Mermaid Inn one night
Showed a most curious manuscript, a scrawl
On yellow parchment, crusted here and there
With sea-salt, or the salt of those thick tears
Creatures like Jeppe, the crooked dwarf, could weep.
It had been found, clasped in a crooked hand,
Under the cliffs of Wheen, a crooked hand
That many a time had beckoned to passing ships,
Hoping to find some voyager who would take
A letter to its master.
The sailors laughed
And jeered at him, till Jeppe threw stones at them.
And now Jeppe, too, was dead, and one who knew
Fynes Moryson, had found him, and brought home
That curious crooked scrawl. Fynes Englished it
Out of its barbarous Danish. Thus it ran:
'Master, have you forgotten Jeppe, your dwarf,
Who used to lie beside the big log-fire
And feed from your own hand? The hall is dark,
There are no voices now,--only the wind
And the sea-gulls crying round Uraniborg.
I too am crying, Master, even I,
Because there is no fire upon the hearth,
No light in any window. It is night,
And all the faces that I knew are gone.

Master, I watched you leaving us. I saw
The white sails dwindling into sea-gull's wings,
Then melting into foam, and all was dark.
I lay among the wild flowers on the cliff
And dug my nails into the stiff white chalk
And called you, Tycho Brahe. You did not hear;
But gulls and jackdaws, wheeling round my head,
Mocked me with Tycho Brahe, and Tycho Brahe!

You were a great magician, Tycho Brahe;
And, now that they have driven you away,
I, that am only Jeppe,--the crooked dwarf,
You used to laugh at for his matted hair,
And head too big and heavy--take your pen
Here in your study. I will write it down
And send it by a sailor to the King
Of Scotland, and who knows, the mouse that gnawed
The lion free, may save you, Tycho Brahe.'"
"He is free now," said Kepler, "had he lived
He would have sent for Jeppe to join him there
At Prague. But death forestalled him, and your King.
The years in which he watched that planet Mars,
His patient notes and records, all were mine;
And, mark you, had he clipped or trimmed one fact
By even a hair's-breadth, so that his results
Made a pure circle of that planet's path
It might have baffled us for an age and drowned
All our new light in darkness. But he held
To what he saw. He might so easily,
So comfortably have said, 'My instruments
Are crude and fallible. In so fine a point
Eyes may have erred, too. Why not acquiesce?
Why mar the tune, why dislocate a world,
For one slight clash of seeming fact with faith?'
But no, though stars might swerve, he held his course,
Recording only what his eyes could see
Until death closed them.
Then, to his results,
I added mine and saw, in one wild gleam,
Strange as the light of day to one born blind,
A subtler concord ruling them and heard
Profounder tones of harmony resolve
Those broken melodies into song again."--
"Faintly and far away, I, too, have seen
In music, and in verse, that golden clue
Whereof you speak," said Wotton. "In all true song,
There is a hidden logic. Even the rhyme
That, in bad poets, wrings the neck of thought,
Is like a subtle calculus to the true,
An instrument of discovery. It reveals
New harmonies, new analogies. It links
Far things and near, not in unnatural chains,
But in those true accords which still escape
The plodding reason, yet unify the world.
I caught some glimpses of this mystic power
In verses of your own, that elegy
On Tycho, and that great quatrain of yours--
I cannot quite recall the Latin words,
But made it roughly mine in words like these:

'I know that I am dust, and daily die;
Yet, as I trace those rhythmic spheres at night,
I stand before the Thunderer's throne on high
And feast on nectar in the halls of light.'

My version lacks the glory of your lines
"Mine too was a version,"
Kepler laughed,
"Turned into Latin from old Ptolemy's Greek;
For, even in verse, half of the joy, I think,
Is just to pass the torch from hand to hand
An undimmed splendour. But, last night, I tried
Some music all my own. I had a dream
That I was wandering in some distant world.
I have often dreamed it Once it was the moon.
I wrote that down in prose. When I am dead,
It may be printed. This was a fairer dream:
For I was walking in a far-off spring
Upon the planet, Venus. Only verse
Could spread true wings for that delicious world;
And so I wrote it--for no eyes but mine,
Or 'twould be seized on, doubtless, as fresh proof
Of poor old Kepler's madness."--
"Let me hear,
Madman to madman; for I, too, write verse."
Then Kepler, in a rhythmic murmur, breathed
His rich enchanted memories of that dream:

"Beauty burned before me
Swinging a lanthorn through that fragrant night.
I followed a distant singing,
And a dreaming light
How she led me, I cannot tell
To that strange world afar,
Nor how I walked, in that wild glen
Upon the sunset star.

Winged creatures floated
Under those rose-red boughs of violet bloom,
With delicate forms unknown on Earth
'Twixt irised plume and plume;
Human-hearted, angel-eyed,
And crowned with unknown flowers;
For nothing in that enchanted world
Followed the way of ours.

Only I saw that Beauty,
On Hesper, as on earth, still held command;
And though, as one in slumber,
I roamed that radiant land,
With all these earth-born senses sealed
To what the Hesperians knew,
The faithful lanthorn of her law
Was mine on Hesper too.

Then, half at home with wonder,
I saw strange flocks of flowers like birds take flight;
Great trees that burned like opals
To lure their loves at night;
Dark beings that could move in realms
No dream of ours has known.
Till these became as common things
As men account their own.

Yet, when that lanthorn led me
Back to the world where once I thought me wise;
I saw, on this my planet,
What souls, with awful eyes.
Hardly I dared to walk her fields
As in that strange re-birth
I looked on those wild miracles
The birds and flowers of earth."

Silence a moment held them, loth to break
The spell of that strange dream,
"One proof the more"
Said Wotton at last, "that songs can mount and fly
To truth; for this fantastic vision of yours
Of life in other spheres, awakes in me,
Either that slumbering knowledge of Socrates,
Or some strange premonition that the years
Will prove it true. This music leads us far
From all our creeds, except that faith in law.
Your quest for knowledge--how it rests on that!
How sure the soul is that if truth destroy
The temple, in three days the truth will build
A nobler temple; and that order reigns
In all things. Even your atheist builds his doubt
On that strange faith; destroys his heaven and God
In absolute faith that his own thought is true
To law, God's lanthorn to our stumbling feet;
And so, despite himself, he worships God,
For where true souls are, there are God and heaven."--

"It is an ancient wisdom. Long ago,"
Said Kepler, "under the glittering Eastern sky,
The shepherd king looked up at those great stars,
Those ordered hosts, and cried Caeli narrant
Gloriam Dei!
Though there be some to-day
Who'd ape Lucretius, and believe themselves
Epicureans, little they know of him
Who, even in utter darkness, bowed his head,
To something nobler than the gods of Rome
Reigning beyond the darkness.
They accept
The law, the music of these ordered worlds;
And straight deny the law's first postulate,
That out of nothingness nothing can be born,
Nor greater things from less. Can music rise
By chance from chaos, as they said that star
In Serpentarius rose? I told them, then,
That when I was a boy, with time to spare,
I played at anagrams. Out of my Latin name
Johannes Keplerus came that sinister phrase
Serpens in akuleo. Struck by this,
I tried again, but trusted it to chance.
I took some playing cards, and wrote on each
One letter of my name. Then I began
To shuffle them; and, at every shuffle, I read
The letters, in their order, as they came,
To see what meaning chance might give to them.
Wotton, the gods and goddesses must have laughed
To see the weeks I lost in studying chance;
For had I scattered those cards into the black
Epicurean eternity, I'll swear
They'd still be playing at leap-frog in the dark,
And show no glimmer of sense. And yet--to hear
Those wittols talk, you'd think you'd but to mix
A bushel of good Greek letters in a sack
And shake them roundly for an age or so,
To pour the Odyssey out.
At last, I told,
Those disputants what my wife had said. One night
When I was tired and all my mind a-dust
With pondering on their atoms, I was called
To supper, and she placed before me there
A most delicious salad. 'It would appear,'
I thought aloud, 'that if these pewter dishes,
Green hearts of lettuce, tarragon, slips of thyme,
Slices of hard boiled egg, and grains of salt.
With drops of water, vinegar and oil,
Had in a bottomless gulf been flying about
From all eternity, one sure certain day
The sweet invisible hand of Happy Chance
Would serve them as a salad.'
'Likely enough,'
My wife replied, 'but not so good as mine,
Nor so well dressed.'"
They laughed. Susannah's voice
Broke in, "I've made a better one. The receipt
Came from the Golden Lion. I have dished
Ducklings and peas and all. Come, John, say grace."