Thursday, 25 February 2016

After Sunshine

It was a summer evening
Professor Caspar’s research done
And from his laboratory window
He looked at the setting sun.
And by him sat his Wilhelmine
Assistant and also concubine.

She saw her lover’s wrinkling
Brow contract as he frowned
And sighed for instead of making love
All night he’d run a thought to ground.
She spoke to ask what idea he’d found
In case he was eager to expound.

Professor Caspar looked down at the girl
And up at the roseate western sky
Then the learned man shook his head
“It’s my wish with wings to fly;
To leave behind the chains of gravity
And sail through the boundless starry sea.

“I look at that swollen sun
As each evening it goes to bed;
And a thought goes round and round
Inside my elegant erudite head.
‘Twould be a great idea,” said he
“To visit that orb, it seems to me.”

“Tell me how you plan to do it,”
Lovely Wilhelmine she cries
As she looks up at her genius lover
With adoring cowlike eyes.
“Tell me how we’d go to the sun
And just what we’re looking for.”

“It is their cowardice,” the Professor cried
“That puts the men of science to rout
For when they think of voyaging there
The heat knocks them all right out.
For iron would run like water,” said he
“By the shores of a solar sea.

“My brain’s too keen for these scientist-men
Round and round theirs go in vain
I got the solution in a moment’s thought
While they sat and argued again.
And while they cower in stupid fright
We’ll go to the sun at night.”

With blood and metal they made a craft
As high as it was wide
And furnished it with food and air
To last them all through the ride.
Caspar took cushions for his captain’s chair
His lover a comb, to mind her hair.

Great was the sight when they rose up
On a column of smoke and fire
And half the bigwigs at the universities
Took to their beds with envious ire.
“They’ll fail though,” the others said
“The sun will toast them like a slice of bread.”

“Now we must find,” Caspar said
“A comet near the sun
On its other side, in its shadow
We’ll make our historic run.
For you know, the sunlight bright
Will make a comet’s shadow, and that’s called night.”

So they found a comet large
Caspar named it after his lady fair
For, he said, its tail was as pretty
As his lover’s well-combed hair.
She, the maiden, smiled and sighed
And hoped they’d get back home unfried.

Then they spun round the swollen sun
And looked into its lambent flame
But the comet’s shadow kept safe and cool
The intrepid professor and his valiant dame.
“I see faces,” the Professor cried
His eyes staring wonder-wide.

Wilhelmine took the telescope
From his unresisting hands
And the lady looked her fill
At the sun’s unknown lands.
She saw flame-men, and women too
As real and live as I or you.

“One of them,” she gasped aloud
In the craft’s cushioned space –
“Looks just like me, and she’s staring back
Right into my own little face.”
“Just like you?” the Professor griped
And then a moment his brow he wiped.

“But they’re shameless,” Wilhelmine said
And frowned and shook her well-combed head;
“They wear no clothes, and do out about
What decent people do in bed.
And of all of them, that woman there
Is most wanton, as well as bare.”

The woman in the sun then smiled
And a kissy-face she made
As though she knew her beauty’s flame
Put the human woman right to shade.
“I could have ten thousand men like that
But they’d fry like bacon fat.”

Caspar sighed and turned from the beauty there
Looked at the lady by his side
And something in her face made him
Ask her right then to be his bride.
For ‘twas better to make her wife
Than feel the edge of her kitchen knife.

“Of course I will,” the maiden said
With a tight-lipped little smile
As though she’d been waiting for this moment
For months and years, all this while.
“Of course I will, but you better turn
Us back homeward, lest we burn.”

The comet sped on past the sun
And in the course of passing time
They came back to near the earth
And celebrated with a gin and lime.
Then they kissed once, and came on down
Landed back in their little town.

Great fame then the Professor won
And of course the Lady Wilhelmine
But the scientists wondered why she kept
A blade with her shining keen,
And why, though his fame was bright
She only let Caspar out at night.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2016

[This is, of course, a parody of Robert Southey’s After Blenheim. But any close passage to the sun will have to be done, as described, at night, that is, in the shadow of some astronomical object.]

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