Stars of the Seasons

Four Anagrams with embedded star charts
Mike Keith, May 2005



Each of the four poems below is an anagram of an English translation of a section of Phaenomena, the famous poem by the Greek poet-astronomer Aratus (ca. 270 B.C.).  Each excerpt from Aratus' poem describes a constellation associated with one of the Northern Hemisphere seasons (Perseus for autumn, Gemini for winter, Virgo for spring, Scorpio for summer) and each anagram is based on some aspect of the given constellation.  Here are the four anagrams, with Aratus' poem on the left:

Autumn: Perseus the hero

Her two feet will guide thee to her bridegroom, Perseus,
Over whose shoulder they are for ever carried.
But he moves in the North a taller form than the others.
His right hand is stretched toward the throne
Of the mother of his bride, and,
As if pursuing that which lies before his feet,
He greatly strides, dust-stained, in the heaven of Zeus.

Near his left thigh move the Pleiades,
All in a cluster, but small is the space
That holds them and singly they dimly shine.
Seven are they in the songs of men,
Albeit only six are visible to the eyes.
Yet not a star, I ween,
Has perished from the sky unmarked
Since the earliest memory of man,
But even so the tale is told.

Those seven are called by name Halcyone, Merope,
Celaeno, Electra, Sterope, Taygete, and queenly Maia.
Small and dim are they all alike, but widely famed
They wheel in heaven at morn and eventide.   

                                The Soldier

I see the wry old man up in the velveted stage in the sky:
Imperial Perseus arises amidst the Autumn eve lights.
On two gold-winged sylvan feet his mythic life is lived,
Betwixt Andromeda's tether, the waves at sea,
And her ghastly assailant, the eerie fish-monster,
Eternally her consort in the seaside dominion.

Bearer of the Medusa and her steely eye, he aims to
Overcome a moonlight-coloured chimera by the sea,
To buffet the phallic serpent
As the eel in the Sun God Epic
Bridled by the bravery of the tall men around Ares.

Therewith it rages, her war in the cosmos:
The Planets and the Suns are yet at her flank,
By the edifice of the astronomer,
In the hallways of his heritage.

O rule on, my marvellous heavenly hero in the sky!
Conquer the hateful, hellish denizen from the dead,
Be the doer of deeds, the masterly man that I'll never be.

Winter: Gemini the twins

Beneath the head of Helice are the Twins;
Beneath her waist is the Crab;
Beneath her hind feet the Lion brightly shines.
There is the Sun's hottest summer path.
Then the fields are seen bereft of corn-ears,
When first the Sun comes together with the Lion.
Then the roaring Etesian winds fall
Swooping on the vasty deep, and
Voyaging is no longer seasonable for oars.
Then let broad-beamed ships be my choice,
And let steersmen hold the helm into the wind.

But if it be thy wish to mark Charioteer and his stars,
And if the fame has come to thee of the Goat herself         
And the Kids who often on the darkening deep
Have seen men storm-tossed,
Thou wilt find him in all his might,
Leaning forward at the left hand of the Twins.
Over against him wheels the top of Helice's head,
But on his left shoulder is set the holy Goat,
That, as legend tells, gave the breast to Zeus.

                         The Brothers

Eschewing the harshness of the withered, tired homeland,
  two men - twins - fled instantly to the US.
Both wasted no time and eagerly mastered
  the fashion, the traffic, the watching thereof,
  the nights of selfish haste,
  the bookbinders, the goddesses,
  the nonsense of the mathematician,
  the far Kingdom of Oil,
The sad lot of the haphazard men,
  the solemn grief to be seen in all the folks downstairs and
  the profane treat to be had in those opulent Americans' hotels.

(Oh, her red velvet galleries!
 Oh, the svelte gentlemen who proffered
 the female hearts within!)

Now the fashionable 'sirs' inhabit the City by the Bay,
  womanless but sheepishly content.
     Here is the odd thing:
The larger one has brains, has a huge heart, and
  esteems the evolutionist and the Hindu the same.
The twin's sibling, otherwise identical, votes Republican.

Go figure.

Spring: Virgo the virgin

Beneath both feet of Bootes mark the Maiden,
Who in her hands bears the gleaming Ear of Corn.
Whether she be daughter of Astraeus,
Who, men say, was of old the father of the stars,
Or child of other sire, untroubled be her course!

But another tale is current among men, how of old
She dwelt on earth and met men face to face,
Nor ever disdained in olden time
The tribes of men and women,
But mingling with them took her seat,
Immortal though she was.

Her men called Justice;
But she assembling the elders,
It might be in the market-place
Or in the wide-wayed streets,
Uttered her voice, ever urging on them
Judgments kinder to the people.

Not yet in that age had men knowledge of hateful strife,
Or carping contention, or din of battle,
But a simple life they lived.
Far from them was the cruel sea and
Not yet from afar did ships bring their livelihood,
But the oxen and the plough and Justice herself,
Queen of the peoples, giver of things just,
Abundantly supplied their every need.
Even so long as the earth still nurtured the Golden Race,
She had her dwelling on earth.


He was one flowerless, unopened lotus,
All bewitched with the anagram or the mathematical joke
  yet not harmed nor enfettered by
  all the fun to be rendered on a mid-summer noontime
  by the bobbing, smiling figure of an erotic sophomore.
Dumb resentment trampled beside him
(between the terror and the burdens of other things),
  throbbing the throb of the sullen psyche.

Then, a fluke: he was invited to go frolic with the "in set".
Prejudice leaping out the roof
  left him grateful but unrefreshed,
  even as he sat in nervous hoarseness and
the grudging need for the deference of the superior classmate.

The big day finally appeared.
At the mark of ten he twirled the red doorknob,
  giggled a manufactured "hi".
Later, tall folk squatting on the floor smooched.
The nightmare advanced on him.

The lass was handsome, her jugs ample.
Her torrid lust was whetted to the point of ravenous heat.
She edged to him, twirling there as a harlot.

He mimed "no" and "bye!".

Now he recollects the eventful, ethereal eve
  and curses the nut who finished the Sixties a virgin.

Summer: Scorpio the scorpion

To the Phantom's back the Crown is near,
But by his head mark near at hand
The head of Ophiuchus, and then from it
You can trace the starlit Ophiuchus himself:
So brightly set beneath his head
Appear his gleaming shoulders.
They would be clear to mark
Even at the midmonth moon,
But his hands are not at all so bright;
For faint runs the gleam of stars
Along on this side and on that.
Yet they too can be seen,
For they are not feeble.
Both firmly clutch the Serpent,
Which encircles the waist of Ophiuchus,
But he, stedfast with both his feet well set,
Tramples a huge monster, even the Scorpion,
Standing upright on his eye and breast.
Now the Serpent is wreathed about his two hands,           
A little above his right hand,
But in many folds high above his left.


   Summer Photograph, Southwestern U.S.

in the cleft
  of the rust-varnished dirt beneath
  the habitat of mischance
  the theatre of unhappiness and
  the encroaching nights of gothic vitalism

He stares
at all coolly,
  casting his retina, by habit, to
  an old rabbit, the robins, the heather growth,
  then again to you.

the subtle flash,
  the nimble tail, the splash of shadows
  on the pincers with the barbs of flame.
  He grabs the bird, hissing, and
  lunches on the frightened fowl.

The harvest
now completed,
  the phantasm lies dumb:
  the hunter known to his watchman,
  the sardonic parody of the narrative of men.

Now he meekly
spits at you.
  He debates for a minute but he does not bite.
  Oh, I'd surely kill you, he muses,
  but you are already dead.

In addition to being an anagram, hidden in each poem is a star chart of the brightest stars in the corresponding constellation.  To reveal the chart follow this simple procedure:

(1) Step through the poem (not including its title) from beginning to end and note each word having four or more letters.  (Why a limit of four?  Four Seasons.)

(2) Compute the letter sum of each such word (with the customary A=1, B=2, C=3, etc.) and write down the units digit (last digit on the right) of the sum.  For example, in the third poem, "Rejection", the first word is FLOWERLESS, with letter sum F+L+O+W+E+R+L+E+S+S = 6+12+15+23+5+18+12+5+19+19 = 134, whose last digit is 4.  Next is UNOPENED, also 4, then LOTUS, a 7, and so forth.  Write the sequence of digits thus obtained five to a line, like this (which continues the example of the third poem):

4 4 7 9 0
5 6 1 9 2
3 9 5 1 3
6 0 4 0 3

(3) Group the numbers in each line as follows::

44  79  0
56  19  2
39  51  3
60  40  3

(4) Each line of numbers describes one star in the star chart.  The first two numbers are X,Y coordinates (using a computer-style coordinate system with 0,0 in the upper left) and the third specifies the star's brightness using the customary astronomical unit of magnitude (0 = very bright, 1 = bright, etc., down to the naked-eye limit of 5 or 6).

Below are the four charts which emerge as a result of this procedure.  Each star's position is accurate to about a third of a degree, and of course the brightness is accurate to the nearest integer magnitude.  The relative sizes of the constellations are also correct.  North is up.