“Forty-two years ago it was a brilliant starry night”

cf. Adolph B. Rice Studio, Thalhimers, boy’s bicycle (1957) and John Thomas, The last of the old candlemakers (ca. 1885) and Thomas Milburn, Train window (2015) and photograph by Juskteez Vu via Unsplash

Forty-two years ago (to me if to no one else
The number is of some interest) it was a brilliant starry night
And the westward train was empty and had no corridors
So darting from side to side I could catch the unwonted sight
Of those almost intolerably bright
Holes, punched in the sky, which excited me partly because
Of their Latin names and partly because I had read in the textbooks
How very far off they were, it seemed their light
Had left them (some at least) long years before I was.

And this remembering now I mark that what
Light was leaving some of them at least then,
Forty-two years ago, will never arrive
In time for me to catch it, which light when
It does get here may find that there is not
Anyone left alive
To run from side to side in a late night train
Admiring it and adding noughts in vain.

—Louis MacNeice, Star-Gazer

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