Star-Gazer by Louis MacNeice: Reading and Meditation

May 23, 2020  • Todd Breyfogle

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Star-Gazer, Louis MacNeice


Comet SWAN is causing a stir, and the brilliant starry night makes time stand still. The infinite darkness yields comfort and terror; the grandeur of the universe reminds us of our own insignificance. In “Star-Gazer”, the passage of the train in time, and of the narrator from one side of the train to the other, is juxtaposed with the passage of light from distant star to eye. How do our motions compare with the travels of light, both in speed and distance? The light we see in tonight’s sky may have left its source well before we were born. Light leaving a distant star now will reach the earth long after any of us will be alive. MacNeice offers not the counsel of despair, but of humility. How much of what we do is “adding noughts in vain”? Are we rushing to collect images, or pausing to receive what is transcendent?

Todd Breyfogle,Denver, Colorado

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