Astronomy interpretation of Bright Star

Discussion on the works of John Keats.

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Astronomy interpretation of Bright Star

Postby Raphael » Sun Mar 06, 2011 11:25 pm

What could the Bright Star have been?

http://www.johnfrawley.com/Bright_Star.htm
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Re: Astronomy interpretation of Bright Star

Postby BrokenLyre » Mon Mar 07, 2011 7:10 pm

Great question Raphael. Indeed, what was the "star' that seems to have triggered Keats' poem? I never really thought about it. The article actually takes more of an "astrological" approach, than an "astronomical" approach. I don't mean to quibble here. There is a big difference between the two. Interesting article, but I can't see Keats writing any poem stemming from detailed astrological exegesis on the level depicted by this author (Frawley). Greek mythology - sure. Granted, that Greek myth is also tied with astrology. We can all see the integration of Keats' Greek mythological background informing his work. But I think this article overreaches its grasp. I certainly am not aware of any significant detailed astrological musings in Keats' letters. Perhaps this is a sticky wicket because of the collusion of Greek myth with astrology. Just my own musings on this. If I had time, I wouldn't mind checking into this more.

I wonder if the "star" were Rigel in the constellation "Orion" (out in the Winter sky) or Sirius, the brightest star in the northern winter? It could also be the star Vega in the constellation "Cygnus" (which is part of the 'Summer Triangle'). These are my best candidates since they are the brightest stars in the northern sky. And yes, these are all astronomical objects you can find in any astronomy textbook. :)
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Re: Astronomy interpretation of Bright Star

Postby Raphael » Mon Mar 07, 2011 8:34 pm

Great question Raphael. Indeed, what was the "star' that seems to have triggered Keats' poem? I never really thought about it. The article actually takes more of an "astrological" approach, than an "astronomical" approach. I don't mean to quibble here. There is a big difference between the two.


I have often wondered what the star was- thought previously it could have been Venus as he mentions it in one of his letters to Fanny Brawne. Yes, it is astrological but also astronomical- a mixture of both I think.


Interesting article, but I can't see Keats writing any poem stemming from detailed astrological exegesis on the level depicted by this author (Frawley). Greek mythology - sure. Granted, that Greek myth is also tied with astrology. We can all see the integration of Keats' Greek mythological background informing his work. But I think this article overreaches its grasp. I certainly am not aware of any significant detailed astrological musings in Keats' letters. Perhaps this is a sticky wicket because of the collusion of Greek myth with astrology. Just my own musings on this. If I had time, I wouldn't mind checking into this more.



No, I don't think John was writing from an astrological view either, but interestingly the astrology elements , especially what the author says of Saturn does fit in- so coincidence it seems. :D
It's an interesting article nevertheless (and I'm not that interested in astrology, but like astronomy).


I wonder if the "star" were Rigel in the constellation "Orion" (out in the Winter sky) or Sirius, the brightest star in the northern winter? It could also be the star Vega in the constellation "Cygnus" (which is part of the 'Summer Triangle'). These are my best candidates since they are the brightest stars in the northern sky. And yes, these are all astronomical objects you can find in any astronomy textbook. :)


Good contenders Broken Lyre.
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Re: Astronomy interpretation of Bright Star

Postby BrokenLyre » Tue Mar 08, 2011 7:37 am

Yes, Raphael, I forgot that Venus was mentioned by Keats - I think at least twice or more in his letters. And, interestingly, Venus is the brightest object in the sky (except for the sun and moon). I do think Venus is an excellent candidate - and Keats knew that Venus was a planet - but it appears as a star if you have ever seen it. And, yes, of course I realize poetry is not a "scientific description" so Venus would work for me too.
This has made me curious. Thanks Raphael for the link. Makes me think a wee bit... and yes, I see more coincidence in the astrology article than anything else.

Everything in life is so connected at some imaginative and paradigmatic level that we can all draw Venn diagrams showing how many things share in numerous characteristics. Strange coincidences abound. Has anyone ever heard the notion that Shakespeare wrote the King James Bible in 1611? (Here's the supposed proof):
1. King James Bible came out in 1611.
2. Shakespeare was 46 years old in 1611.
3. Psalm 46 is where "Shakespeare" is secretly mentioned.
4. Starting with the first word in Psalm 46 - count 46 words forward and you will come to the work "shake"
5. Starting with the last word in Psalm 46 - count 46 words backward and you will come to the word "spear."

Thus, all ye see mine proof.
Just havin' a little fun here - but feel free to check Psalm 46 above in KJV. It does work, strangely. :)
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Re: Astronomy interpretation of Bright Star

Postby Raphael » Tue Mar 08, 2011 2:41 pm

I believe you Broken Lyre! Everything is connected up- the pagan Anglo Saxons had the understanding of the Web of Wyrd in which we are all intertwined, Buddhism teaches of inter dependence and the oneness of things. I myself see that the Universe gives us messages/interacts with us through life forms (and sometimes in non life forms). For example- people getting "messages" from animals, dreams, the written word etc, so called co- incidences etc etc. I have a little saying "nothing exists in isolation." :D
John....you did not live to see-
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Re: Astronomy interpretation of Bright Star

Postby Saturn » Tue Mar 08, 2011 7:16 pm

I have to say I think Astrology is utter nonsense, and the universe is just as vast as its indifference to humankind. It is interesting however to speculate on which star Keats meant, or which he may have seen.

As for Shakespeare doing some work on the King James bible: I've read this theory before, and even without those rather far-fetched coincidences, considering how collaborative and collective the writing of major works like that were at the time, it would not be surprising if one of the most famous and well regarded writers of the period was asked to do a little polishing on some verses. Much as I am an avowed Atheist, no-one can deny the power, poetry and influence of that work on the English language and the English speaking world since the 17th century.
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Re: Astronomy interpretation of Bright Star

Postby Raphael » Wed Mar 09, 2011 12:13 am

I'd never heard of the Shakspeare theory and the King James bible before til Broken Lyre posted about it.
John....you did not live to see-
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what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Astronomy interpretation of Bright Star

Postby glindhot » Sun Jun 26, 2011 7:54 am

If Keats's sonnet was inspired by an actual bright star, which one? Perhaps, by reversing the process, the poem may disclose or, at least, suggest the star. I have chosen London as the base for my astronomical analysis.

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art -
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,


Here are bright candidates to the south:
    Order Star Magnitude Max °alt
    1 Sirius -1.46 21.7
    7 Rigel 0.12 29.5
    8 Procyon 0.38 43.7
    10 Betelgeuse 0.50 46
    13 Aldebaran 0.85 54

I dismiss all of these stars. They are not "stedfast" but only winter stars and they all set. In winter's long nights some are only in the sky for 9.5 hours (Sirius, Rigel). Not "lone" for each is comparatively close to the others. Not "hung aloft" but low in the sky. Shallow angles produce twinking , not "stedfast" light.

Here are bright candidates to the north:
    Order Star Magnitude Max °alt
    5 Vega 0.03 84.5
    6 Capella 0.08 77
    19 Deneb 1.25 85

They are "stedfast" being circumpolar stars, that is, they never set but are in the sky every night ("sleepless Eremite"). I dismiss Deneb because Vega is 2.5 times brighter and precedes Deneb by 2 hours. Now, to decide between Vega and Capella!

They are of almost equal brightness (22:21) and neither has bright neighbouring stars but is "lone". They are on approximately opposite sides of the Pole Star, around which they rotate anticlockwise in a giant circle. Capella follows 10 hr 40 min behind Vega, or, if you prefer, Vega follows 13 hr 20 min behind Capella. Both go close to the zenith, Vega to 13 degrees and Capella to 5.5 degrees. This would be the best place from which to observe "earth's shores". Also, a high elevation minimises atmospheric refraction (lessens twinkling), hence more "stedfast".

The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors -


12 hours after reaching its highest point, each star reaches its lowest point. At certain times of the year when nights are long, and Vega, or Capella, is suitably located, it can be seen at both its own highest and its lowest points 12 hours apart. Vega gets exactly to the horizon and, in fact, would go behind intervening hills. Capella's low point is 7 degrees above the horizon and is thus above the hills. Also, to actually distinguish the shape of "the mountains and the moors" the star has to arrive at a low viewing angle. This causes me to prefer Capella as the "bright star" rather than Vega.
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Re: Astronomy interpretation of Bright Star

Postby Raphael » Wed Jun 29, 2011 10:15 pm

Thanks for that glindhot- interesting!
John....you did not live to see-
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