Poetry and the stars have been metaphorical bedfellows for nigh on as long as humans have been writing in verse. The astounding natural beauty of the heavens makes them an obvious choice for symbolising love, wonder, scale and many more poetic devices.
However, poets have not always been so keen on astrology. Many have been – such as Rudyard Kipling’s romantic paean to the astrologers of the past, or Wordsworth’s Italian love sonnet to starry skies. Others, such as Emily Dickinson’s succinct Nature Assigns the Sun have been quite dismissive of the concept of divination by astronomical patterns.
Here are just a few of the poems referencing astrology in (relatively) modern times, and a little info about the creators who crafted them.
Rudyard Kipling’s An Astrologers Song
“All thought, all desires,
That are under the sun,
Are one with their fires,
As we also are one…”
One of the most celebrated poets of the Victorian era, Rudyard Kipling was the original author of The Jungle Book – which was later adapted into a seminal Disney animation. This ode to the pure belief an astrologer has in their work, was no doubt highly influenced by the Vedic or Hindu Astrology of the Indian subcontinent where he was born and spent much of his life.
William Wordsworth’s The Stars are Mansions Built by Nature’s Hand
“The stars are mansions built by Nature’s hand,
And, haply, there the spirits of the blest…”
One of the doyennes of the Romantic period of English literature, with a name like William Wordsworth he could hardly have been anything else in life. This poem shows the divine reverence in which Wordsworth held the order of the stars above us, at a time when astrological beliefs were on the wane – only a few centuries after the Copernican Revolution. Wordsworth also travelled extensively in Revolutionary France, where he developed a keen affinity for the republican cause. Although whether this poem shows he attributed these tumultuous events to the movements of the stars is up for debate.
Emily Dickinson’s Nature Assigns the Sun
“Nature assigns the Sun —
That — is Astronomy —
Nature cannot enact a Friend —
That — is Astrology.”
One of the leading lights of American poetry in the 19th century, much of Emily Dickinson’s work was published posthumously. Born into a conservative household in Amherst, Massachusetts, Dickinson’s poetry was uncomfortably modern for many editors and publishers of her time. This particular four-lines succinct yet beautifully poignant summary of astrological beliefs can certainly be considered a case in point.
W.H Auden’s The More Loving Ones
“How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?”
For evidence of the decline in astrology in the 20th century (although it has returned somewhat with the advent of the internet), one need look no further than the shifting attitudes of poets over the centuries. The most modern of the poets on this list, this example of Auden’s poetry anthropomorphises the stars and wonders – what place do we have in the Universe if the heavens are true agents of our destiny?
Food for thought, at least!