The Comet of 1811

Miss Porden

Twas one fair eve, the stars were bright,
Each planet beamed reflected light,
When with a wild and angry look,
Thus to his brother Hermes spoke.

Say Phoebus, are you made, or why
This strange disorder in the sky,
What does this bold intrude mean,
This comet, with such terror seen,
With squibs and crackers in his train
He scours the blue etherial plain,
Affrights the Bear, who dreads to view,
His starry splendours torn in two.
His tail, of Arctic skies the pride
Bent flaming from his wounded side
And through a thousand systems hurled,
The dread or scourge of many a world.

While I, tho’d used to take my seat,
Close to your flaming orb of heat,
And toast my nose beside the fire,
In warmth where others would expire,
Am in a perfect fever now,
The victim of this fervid flow.
My trees that grew so tall and fair,
Now show their stems all scorched and bare,
My harvest’s burnt, my vintage spoiled,
My fish in bubbling rivers boiled,
And my poor tenants sadly broiled.

In dread of still a warmer birth,
I lately threw a glance on Earth.
But there, tho’ further from the sight,
I found the natives in a fright.
Each hour expecting to survey,
Their globe in flames consume away.
Nay one, so much o’erpowered with dread,
Had to a tub of water fled,
And there for many an hour she stood
Chin deep within th’ encircling flood
And hopeless, rather wish’d to die
A wat’ry death, than broil or fry

What may this mean, sir, I insist,
Your visitor be straight dismissed,
Must discord run the system thro’
Presumptuous god, to pleasure you. I know not from what cause, not I,
You claim the right to rule the sky
Prescribe the course of each bright bale
And fix the destinies of all.

Too weak our system to command,
The sceptre trembles in your hand,
Abuses creep into your reign,
And our once perfect order stain.
Reform your rule, or I’ll petition
Jove to recall your high commission,
Himself the radiant throne to fill,
And guide us with a wiser will.

Thus loudly angry Hermes cries,
And Phoebus with a smile replies.

I would not, brother, stop your chatter,
But greatly you mistake the matter.
No bold intruders vex the sphere,
Nor have the planets aught to fear,
The comet, far beyond our sight,
Oft draws his flaming train of light,
To other systems swiftly runs,
And links myself to other suns,
But bound by my attractive force
Again to me he bends his course.
In path eccentric, long and bold
Yet still corrected and controll’d
By the same laws that fix your own
He wheels around my blazing throne.

And tho’ his size and brilliant light,
May fools with transient dread affright,
Yet never shall his train appear,
To spread disorder, thro’ the sphere.
Earth’s tenants cannot feel his ray,
’Tis I that give the warmer day,
To make each foolish sage enquire,
From whence he draws his store of fire.
But know, had Nova Zembla’s frost,
Now chilled the equatorial coast,
Each silly wiseacre had told,
The comet caused th’ unusual cold.

Then brother, to your charge repair
And trust the system to my care