• An Omen in the Night Sky

    In 1835, the year Samuel Clemens, writer, reporter, and publisher was born, Halley’s Comet passed over. Twain vowed that he would not die until he saw the famous comet again. Then, just before Twain died, Halley’s Comet passed over. He died the next day–April 10th, 1910 at 6:30 p.m. For all the fame Twain enjoyed, his life was greatly marked by failures and heartrending deaths and tragedies in his family.  As Twain lay dying under the tail of the comet, the Titanic was laid down and building in Belfast.  The ship would have a sad and notorious end.

    Recently astonomers, thanks to a painting by Frederic Church,  finally figured out what phenomenon Walt Whitman and others witnessed in the night sky in July of 1860 and mentioned in Leaves of Grass. http://www.aolnews.com/science/article/walt-whitman-meteor-mystery-solved-by-astronomer-sleuths/19502614?icid=main|htmlws-main-w|dl1|link3|http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aolnews.com%2Fscience%2Farticle%2Fwalt-whitman-meteor-mystery-solved-by-astronomer-sleuths%2F19502614

     As Sarah Morse Borden lay upon her birthing bed in the house on Ferry St.,  on July 19th, high above in the sky, a massive meteor was hurtling toward earth. The New York Times, Smithsonian, and Harper’s Weekly all covered the event, with Scientific American calling it “the largest meteor that has ever been seen.”

    Breaking into many smaller pieces, it produced a parade of fireballs in the sky on the evening of July 20th as Lizzie Borden lay in her cradle on her first day of life.  She would also become- notorious.

    Walt Whitman died in 1892- the year of the Borden murders.  Here is the poem, “Year of the Meteor”-

    Year of meteors! brooding year!
    I would bind in words retrospective some of your deeds and signs,
    I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad,
    I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair, mounted the
    scaffold in Virginia,
    (I was at hand, silent I stood with teeth shut close, I watch’d,
    I stood very near you old man when cool and indifferent, but trembling
    with age and your unheal’d wounds you mounted the scaffold;)
    I would sing in my copious song your census returns of the States,
    The tables of population and products, I would sing of your ships
    and their cargoes,
    The proud black ships of Manhattan arriving, some fill’d with
    immigrants, some from the isthmus with cargoes of gold,
    Songs thereof would I sing, to all that hitherward comes would welcome give,
    And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you from me, young
    prince of England!
    (Remember you surging Manhattan’s crowds as you pass’d with your
    cortege of nobles?
    There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with attachment;)
    Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she swam up my bay,
    Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my bay, she was
    600 feet long,
    Her moving swiftly surrounded by myriads of small craft I forget not
    to sing;
    Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north flaring in heaven,
    Nor the strange huge meteor-procession dazzling and clear shooting
    over our heads,
    (A moment, a moment long it sail’d its balls of unearthly light over
    our heads,
    Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
    Of such, and fitful as they, I sing–with gleams from them would
    gleam and patch these chants,
    Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good–year of forebodings!
    Year of comets and meteors transient and strange–lo! even here one
    equally transient and strange!
    As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone, what is this chant,
    What am I myself but one of your meteors?