Nox Oculis

James Thomson (1700-1748)

Poète écossais. James Thomson étudia la théologie à l'Université d'Edinburgh, mais quitta rapidement afin de poursuivre une carrière comme au théâtre.

Ce poème a été publié en juin 1727, trois mois seulement après la mort de Newton. Thomson y démontre un réel enthousiasme pour les découvertes et les idées du grand génie, qui reflète l'engouement du début du XVIIIe siècle pour les nouvelles sciences.

To the memory of Sir Isaac Newton (extraits)

    All intellectual eye, our solar-round
    First gazing through, he by the blended power
    Of gravitation and projection saw
    The whole in silent harmony revolve.
    From unassisted vision hid, the moons
    To cheer remoter planets numerous pour'd,
    By him in all their mingled tracts were seen.
    He also fix'd the wandering Queen of Night,
    Whether she wanes into a scanty orb,
    Or, waxing broad, with her pale shadowy light,
    In a soft deluge overflows the sky.
    Her every motion clear-discerning, he
    Adjusted to the mutual main, and taught
    Why now the mighty mass of water swells
    Resistless, heaving on the broken rocks,
    And the full river turning; till again
    The tide revertive, unattracted, leaves
    A yellow waste of idle sands behind.
    Then breaking hence, he took his ardent flight
    Through the blue infinite; and every star,
    Which the clear concave of a winter's night
    Pours on the eye, or astronomic tube,
    Far-stretching, snatches from the dark abyss,
    Or such as farther in successive skies
    To fancy shine alone, at his approach
    Blaz'd into suns, the living centre each
    Of an harmonious system: all combin'd,
    And rul'd unerring by that single power,
    Which draws the stone projected to the ground.
    O unprofuse magnificence divine !
    O wisdom truly perfect ! thus to call
    From a few causes such a scheme of things,
    Effects so various, beautiful, and great,
    An universe complete ! and O belov'd
    Of Heaven! whose well-purg'd penetrative eye,
    The mystic veil transpiercing, inly scann'd
    The rising, moving, wide-establish'd frame.

    He, first of men, with awful wing pursu'd
    The comet through the long elliptic curve,
    As round innumerous worlds he wound his way,
    Till, to the forehead of our evening sky
    Return'd, the blazing wonder glares anew,
    And o'er the trembling nations shakes dismay.

    The heavens are all his own, from the wild rule
    Of whirling vortices and circling spheres
    To their first great simplicity restor'd.
    The schools astonish'd stood; but found it vain
    To keep at odds with demonstration strong,
    And, unawaken'd, dream beneath the blaze
    Of truth. At once their pleasing visions fled,
    With the gay shadows of the morning mix'd,
    When Newton rose, our philosophic sun !
    Th' aërial flow of sound was known to him,
    From whence it first in wavy circles breaks,
    Till the touch'd organ takes the message in.
    Nor could the darting beam of speed immense
    Escape his swift pursuit and measuring eye.
    Ev'n Light itself, which every thing displays,
    Shone undiscover'd, till his brighter mind
    Untwisted all the shining robe of day ;
    And, from the whitening undistinguish'd blaze,
    Collecting every ray into his kind,
    To the charm'd eye educ'd the gorgeous train
    Of parent colours. First the flaming red
    Sprung vivid forth; the tawny orange next ;
    And next delicious yellow; by whose side
    Fell the kind beams of all-refreshing green.
    Then the pure blue, that swells autumnal skies
    Ethereal played; and then, of sadder hue,
    Emerg'd the deepen'd indigo, as when
    The heavy-skirted evening droops with frost ;
    While the last gleamings of refracted light
    Died in the fainting violet away.
    These, when the clouds distil the rosy shower,
    Shine out distinct adown the wat'ry bow ;
    While o'er our heads the dewy vision bends
    Delightful, melting on the fields beneath.
    Myriads of mingling dyes from these result,
    And myriads still remain -- infinite source
    Of beauty, ever flushing, ever new.

    James Thomson, A Poem Sacred to the Memory of Sir Isaac Newton (1727)

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