Because starlight takes many years to reach us, the stars in the night sky are images of the past. This curious fact has inspired the following two poems, which like starlight have outlived their originators.
For the Star
by Mihai Eminscu (1850 – 1889)
Translated from Romanian by A. Z. Foreman
It’s been a long way for that star
Now rising in our skies:
Its light has trekked a thousand years
To reach our earthborn eyes.
It may have long ago burned out
Amid the blue of space
Yet only now its ray has come
To set our sights ablaze.
That icon of a perished star
Climbs heaven’s canopy:
We who saw not the light that was
Now see what’s ceased to be.
It’s ever thus when our desires
Go, spent, into the night.
Our love still follows after us
With an extinguished light.
by Elizabeth Jennings (1926 – 2001)
The radiance of the star that leans on me
Was shining years ago. The light that now
Glitters up there my eyes may never see,
And so the time lag teases me with how
Love that loves now may not reach me until
Its first desire is spent. The star’s impulse
Must wait for eyes to claim it beautiful
And love arrived may find us somewhere else.
The idea also crops up in this poem by A. D. Hope.