Helen Ashley

Observations on the Creation

Den ausgedehnten Himmelsraum
ziert ohne Zahl
der hellen Sterne Gold

Joseph hangs notes on the stave
as he sets Uriel’s words for tenor voice.
He smiles, thinking back to June 1792,
to England, to William Herschel’s Observatory.

You are welcome, Mr Haydn” she greets him.
But sadly, my brother is away.
Hiding disappointment, Joseph is resigned
to take tea, converse politely with Caroline,
sister of William, musician-astronomer.

But her words are not of trivia:
fervently, she leads him from the house
to their place of work; tells of telescopes
too weak to satisfy her brother’s searchings;
hours she worked with him, to grind and polish
mirrors for superior instruments.

She shows notebooks, relives records
of William’s insight, 1781: a distant star?
But no, something new ‒another planet,
seventh from the sun; his questioning
of nebulae: not strange fluid, but a mass of stars;
her growing curiosity; acclaim for separate
discoveries made by her own observations.

London concerts, Handel’s oratorios still play
through Joseph’s head. He longs to emulate
such grandeur. Returning to Vienna,
in his luggage is the perfect libretto
to set for religious convention.
In his thoughts, the music is forming
to reflect his new-found wonder:
how much of the creation still awaits
the enquiring minds of William and Caroline.

Quotation translates as:
The space immense of the azure sky
in numerous hosts
of radiant orbs adorns

from the Oratorio “The Creation” by Joseph Haydn

HELEN ASHLEY lives in Totnes, Devon, where she facilitates a poetry appreciation group. Her Acumen pamphlet, Ways of Saying, was published in 2010. In 2018, she was Commended in the Grey Hen Poetry Competition, and Highly Commended in the Torbay Festival
Poetry Competition.