Nox Oculis

Alfred Noyes (1880-1958)

Alfred Noyes est né le 16 september 16 1880, à Wolverhampton, en Angleterre. Son père, d'abord un épicier et plus tard instituteur à Aberystwyth sur la côte galloise, lui enseigna le latin et le grec. Noyes étudia au Exeter College, Oxford, mais quitta avant de recevoir un diplôme. À l'âge de 21 abs, il publia son premier recueil de poèmes, The Loom Years (1902), qui reçut des éloges de plusieurs poètes respectés telque William Butler Yeats et George Meredith.

Entre 1903 et 1908, Noyes publia cinq volumes de poésie incluant The Forest of Wild Thyme (1905), The Flower of Old Japan et Other Poems (1907). En 1907, Noyes maria une américaine, Garnett Daniels. Ils eurent trois enfants. Sa popularité croissante permit à sa famille de vivre de ses droits d'auteurs. En 1914, Noyes accepta une position de professeur à l'Univsersité Princeton, où il enseigna la littérature anglaise jusqu'en 1923.

Èn 1922, il commença la rédaction d'une épopée intitulée The Torch Bearers, qui fut publiée en trois volumes (Watchers of the Sky, 1922 ; The Book of Earth, 1925 ; et The Last Voyage, 1930). Le livre doit sa genèse à une visite que Noyes effectua au télescope situé sur le Mont Wilson, en Californie. Dans cette oeuvre, il essaie de réconcilier ses idées sur la science et la religion. L'ouvrage couvre les vies et l'oeuvre de Copernic, Tycho Brahe, Képler, Galilée, Newton, William Herschel, Sir John Herschel.

Sa femme s'éteignit en 1926 et Noyes se tourna de plus en plus vers le catholicisme. On retrouve ces thèmes spirituels et religieux dans ses oeuvres les plus tardives, particulièrment The Unknown God (1934) et If Judgment Comes (1941). En 1927, Noyes épousa Mary Angela Mayne Weld-Blundel. Ils eurent sensemble trois enfants. En 1929, la famille Noyes s'installa à Lisle Combe, St Lawrence, sur l'Île de Wight. L'ancienne demeure des Noyes à Hanover Terrace, sur Regent's Park fut vendue à H.G. Wells.

Durant la seconde geurre mondiale, Noyes vécut au Canada et aux États-Unis et fut un défenseur acharné de l'effort de guerre Allié. En 1949, il retourna en Grande-Bretagne. À cause d'une cécité grandissante, ses oeuvrages subséquents furent tous dictés à voix haute.

Alfred Noyes est mort le 23 juin 1958, et fut enterré dans le cimetière catholique de Freshwater sur l'Île de Wight.

Watchers of the Sky (extraits)

    Prologue : The Observatory.

    ...Then...aimed at one small point of light
    One seeming insignificant star...

    I, too, looked,
    And saw that insignificant spark of light
    Touched with new meaning, beautifully reborn,
    A swimming world, a perfect rounded pearl,
    Poised in the violet sky; and, as I gazed,
    I saw a miracle, --right on its upmost edge
    A tiny mound of white that slowly rose,
    Then, like an exquisite seed-pearl, swung quite clear
    And swam in heaven above its parent world
    To greet its three bright sister-moons.

    A moon,
    Of Jupiter, no more, but clearer far
    Than mortal eyes had seen before from earth,
    O, beautiful and clear beyond all dreams
    Was that one silver phrase of the starry tune
    Which Galileo's "old discoverer" first
    Dimly revealed, dissolving into clouds
    The imagined fabric of our universe.
    "Jupiter stands in heaven and will stand
    Though all the sycophants bark at him," he cried,
    Hailing the truth before he, too, went down,
    Whelmed in the cloudy wreckage of that dream...

    II. Tycho Brahe

    ...Then Tycho showed his tables of the stars,
    Seven hundred stars, each noted in its place
    With exquisite precision, the result
    Of watching heaven for five-and-twenty years...

    "In the time to come,"
    Said Tycho Brahe, "perhaps a hundred years,
    Perhaps a thousand, when our own poor names
    Are quite forgotten, and our kingdoms dust,
    On one sure certain day, the torch-bearers
    Will, at some point of contact, see a light
    Moving upon this chaos. Though our eyes
    Be shut for ever in an iron sleep,
    Their eyes shall see the kingdom of the law,
    Our undiscovered cosmos. They shall see it, --
    A new creation rising from the deep,
    Beautiful, whole.

    We are like men that hear
    Disjointed notes of some supernal choir.
    Year after year, we patiently record
    All we can gather. In that far-off time,
    A people that we have not known shall hear them,
    Moving like music to a single end."

    IV. Galileo

    ...He made his telescope;
    And, O how vividly that day comes back,
    When in their gorgeous robes the Senate stood
    Beside him on that high Venetian tower,
    Scanning the bare blue sea that showed no speck
    Of sail. Then, one by one, he bade them look;
    And one by one they gasped, "a miracle."
    Brown sails and red, a fleet of fishing boats,
    See how the bright foam bursts around their bows !
    See how the bare-legged sailors walk the decks !
    Then, quickly looking up, as if to catch
    The vision, ere it tricked them, all they saw
    Was empty sea again.

    Many believed
    That all was trickery, but he bade them note
    The colours of the boats, and count their sails.
    Then, in a little while, the naked eye
    Saw on the sky-line certain specks that grew,
    Took form and colour ; and, within an hour,
    Their magic fleet came foaming into port...
    ...They did not hear...when he hinted at his hope
    Of opening up the heavens for mankind
    With that new power of bringing far things near.
    My heart burned as I heard him; but they blinked
    Like owls at noonday...
    Late that night... I followed him. He showed me,
    Looking along his outstretched hand, a star,
    A point of light above our olive-trees.
    It was the star called Jupiter. And then
    He bade me look again, but through his glass.
    I feared to look at first, lest I should see
    Some wonder never meant for mortal eyes.
    He, too, had felt the same, not fear, but awe,
    As if his hand were laid upon the veil
    Between this world and heaven.

    Then -- I, too, saw,
    Small as the smallest bead of mist that clings
    To a spider's thread at dawn, the floating disk
    Of what had been a star, a planet now,
    And near it, with no disk that eyes could see,
    Four needle-points of light, unseen before.
    "The moons of Jupiter," he whispered low,
    "I have watched them as they moved, from night to night;
    A system like our own, although the world
    Their fourfold lights and shadows make so strange
    Must -- as I think -- be mightier than we dreamed,
    A Titan planet. Earth begins to fade
    And dwindle; yes, the heavens are opening now.
    Perhaps up there, this night, some lonely soul
    Gazes at earth, watches our dawning moon,
    And wonders, as we wonder.


    The records grow
    Unceasingly, and each new grain of truth
    Is packed, like radium, with whole worlds of light.
    The eclipses timed in Babylon help us now
    To clock that gradual quickening of the moon,
    Ten seconds in a century.

    Who that wrote
    On those clay tablets could foresee his gift
    To future ages; dreamed that the groping mind,
    Dowered with so brief a life, could ever range
    With that divine precision through the abyss?
    Who, when that good Dutch spectacle-maker set
    Two lenses in a tube, to read the time
    Upon the distant clock-tower of his church,
    Could dream of this, our hundred-inch, that shows
    The snow upon the polar caps of Mars
    Whitening and darkening as the seasons change?
    Or who could dream when Galileo watched
    His moons of Jupiter, that from their eclipses
    And from that change in their appointed times,
    Now late, now early, as the watching earth
    Farther or nearer on its orbit rolled,
    The immeasurable speed of light at last
    Should be reduced to measure?

    Could Newton dream
    When, through his prism, he broke the pure white shaft
    Into that rainbow band, how men should gather
    And disentangle ray by delicate ray
    The colours of the stars, -- not only those
    That burn in heaven, but those that long since perished,
    Those vanished suns that eyes can still behold,
    The strange lost stars whose light still reaches earth
    Although they died ten thousand years ago.
    Here, night by night, the innumerable heavens
    Speak to an eye more sensitive than man's,
    Write on the camera's delicate retina
    A thousand messages, lines of dark and bright
    That speak of elements unknown on earth.

    Alfred Noyes, 1922

The Loom of Years

    In the light of the silent stars that shine on the struggling sea,
    In the weary cry of the wind and the whisper of flower and tree,
    Under the breath of laughter, deep in the tide of tears,
    I hear the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.

    The leaves of the winter wither and sink in the forest mould
    To colour the flowers of April with purple and white and gold:
    Light and scent and music die and are born again
    In the heart of a grey-haired woman who wakes in a world of pain.

    The hound, the fawn, and the hawk, and the doves that croon and coo,
    We are all one woof of the weaving and the one warp threads us through,
    One flying cloud on the shuttle that carries our hopes and fears
    As it goes thro' the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.

    The green uncrumpling fern and the rustling dewdrenched rose
    Pass with our hearts to the Silence where the wings of music close,
    Pass and pass to the Timeless that never a moment mars,
    Pass and pass to the Darkness that made the suns and stars.

    Has the soul gone out in the Darkness? Is the dust sealed from sight?
    Ah, hush, for the woof of the ages returns thro' the warp of the night!
    Never that shuttle loses one thread of our hopes and fears,
    As it comes thro' the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.

    O, woven in one wide Loom thro' the throbbing weft of the whole,
    One in spirit and flesh, one in body and soul,
    Tho' the leaf were alone in its falling, the bird in its hour to die,
    The heart in its muffled anguish, the sea in its mournful cry,

    One with the flower of a day, one with the withered moon
    One with the granite mountains that melt into the noon
    One with the dream that triumphs beyond the light of the spheres,
    We come from the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.

    Alfred Noyes

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