Another rejected poem. Should I try to get it published elsewhere? No. It was written for a Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets contest: to write a poem from the point of view of someone else, e.g., a historical figure. I chose Caroline Herschel because I am fascinated with her life and the fact that no one has – probably – ever heard of her. Such an obscure figure that she was likely not of interest to the contest judge. It would take too much space to explain who she is. Here’s Caroline’s story and the poem, a sonnet.
Caroline Herschel, nick-named Lina, was born in Hanover, Germany in 1750. She was the first woman to discover a comet. She was disfigured by small pox and typhus. Her brother William rescued her from life as a maid when he called her to join him in Bath, England where he was hired as an organist. He taught her to sing and to assist him in his astronomical studies. William is famous for discovering the planet Uranus.
When her brother was absent, Caroline started to make her own observations. On August 1, 1876, Caroline discovered her first comet, the “First Lady’s Comet;” the first comet to be discovered by a woman. She went on to discover a total of eight comets.
Caroline also corrected the star catalogue of the day, adding 500 omissions; produced a catalogue of nebulae; and was awarded a gold medal in 1828 by the Royal Astronomical Society. Her dream was to ride a comet! After William died, Caroline returned to Hanover and died in 1848 at the age of 97.
The night sky sparkles; I am not alone.
I’ll map just one more bit before I’m through.
I move my telescope, slowly, up…down,
and look for a star, just one, that is new.
Cold feet, numb fingers; writing in the dark.
I am awake all night, no time to sleep.
I’m hungry, too, but I can’t stop the work.
I must record everything I see.
Is that a comet? If it is, I could be…
It will be called the “First Lady’s Comet.”
I’ll catalogue the stars and nebulae,
win medals from the Royal Society,
but my dream…riding to the edge of space
on a comet’s orbit back to this place.