Thursday, March 22, 2012

Asimov PP: 11/1989: "Massing the Sun"

I'm going through Isaac Asimov's F&SF essays in reverse order by date to share the Personal Paragraphs with which he invariably opened each essay.
When I was young, I read a great deal of poetry. Partly, that was because poetry was pushed at me in school. (I don't know if it is anymore, but I certainly hope it is.) And partly it was because I didn't know any better. My immigrant parents, as I have frequently explained, did not know enough about English literature to guide my reading, so I read everything. I even read stuff like poetry, because no one told me I was supposed to hate it.

In any case, I remember much of the poetry I read in those days because I have always had trouble forgetting anything (except things that are vital, like the instructions my dear wife, Janet, gives me, in her hopeless attempt to make me live forever.) And some of the poetry has persisted in coloring my view of the world even today.

For instance, there is a poem by Francis William Bourdillon (I won't lie to you - I had to look up his name), who wrote a short poem, of which the first verse goes as follows:

The night has a thousand eyes
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.

Nothing I have read, either in literature or in science, has given me so unfailing an appreciation of the importance of the Sun as those four lines.

As a result, I was not the least surprised to find, a little later in my youth, that the first monotheist we know of in ordinary secular history, who was the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton (reigning 1372-1362 BC) chose the Sun as the one supreme god. (Good choice, Akhenaton, I thought. Very logical.)

So I will continue with my discussion of the Sun.

And with that, Asimov segues into his discussion of, "How heavy is the sun" - and explains the difference between "mass" and "weight".

And as an aside, here's the rest of that poem:
The Night Has A Thousand Eyes
by Francis William Bourdillon


The night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying of the sun.

The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one;
Yet the light of a whole life dies
When love is done.

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