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 Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

Ooh!  Ooh!  Ooh!  This is a double sonnet—not just two sonnets one after the other, but two sonnets functioning as a single poem.  The first line of the first is the last line of the second, and that last line of the first the first of the second.  You have noticed already that I get off on structural dovetailing like that—especially when I can make it work to support the flow of the thought through the whole piece.  Did I do that here?  Let’s find out.


That the Modern Scientific World-View, In its Euphoria over Learning

How to do Neat Things with Matter, Has Left Something out of the Equation

There was a time when men could see the sky,

A grand cathedral vaulted and ablaze

With myriad candles lifted up on high

By nights for Vespers; in the brighter days,

The great Rose Window eastward shed its rays

For Morning Prayer, and each and every flame

Burned eloquent in litanies of praise,

In fugues and canons to extol the Name.

But now the sky, though larger, is more tame,

And modern man sees what he’s taught to see:

Vast numbers are just numbers all the same,

Though multiplied toward infinity;

And quarks and quasars cannot speak to us

Except as agitated forms of dust.


Except as agitated forms of dust,

We don’t know how to know the thing we are:

The biochemistry of love is lust

As an atomic furnace is a star,

And all that’s known is particles at war.

And yet we do know love, and yet we know

That it and lust are infinitely far

Apart.  We know the stars and how they glow,

Though they know nothing of us here below.

So even while we’re slogging through the mire,

We cannot help ourselves, but as we go

We cock our heads to listen for the choir.

We know that half the truth is half a lie:

There was a time when men could see the sky.

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD



Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.” I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

What is it about the moon and stars that fascinates us so? (If you have not felt the fascination, you have been cheated of a great mystery by light pollution.) One partial answer may appear below.


The Contribution of Lesser Lights
Sonnet XXIX

For a while he could almost count them as they came
Like scouts, but then the whole vast army stepped
At once into the sky and into flame.
Like a poem he could not understand, they kept
A vigil in his spirit while he slept
And swift were vanishing when he awoke.
But the more garish light of day that swept
Them from the sky swept no soul’s darkness, spoke
No lightning lines, no secrets could uncloak.
Oh, it shone bright and clear, there was no doubt,
And glanced gold fire from off the dull-leaved oak.
But though man has it in him to blot out
The sun, these lesser lights still often find
The chinks in the dark armor of his mind.


Remember: for more poetry like this, go to and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Reflections-Front Cover-2013-6-4

Looking to the Stars

Such a beautiful sight.

A couple weeks back I talked about how to start building a world, and I want to keep that theme going.  Throughout history the stars have been incredibly important to human kind.  Not only do the moon and sun have significant physical effects on the world, but various cultures have believed that they could use the sky to determine everything from an individuals purpose in life, to his/her best potential mate, to the day that person would die.  Astrology is one of the oldest, and most pervasive, ‘sciences’, but it is generally ignored in fantasy literature.  I have read many fantasy novels in which the sky is almost never mentioned.  In many stories it is impossible to tell if the world even has a moon, much less what affect the moon might have.

So, how does the sky affect our fantasy worlds? Perhaps how can the sky affect our fantasy worlds?  Does your world have one moon, like earth? Does it have more than one moon? Does it have a moon at all?  How does the moon affect the world?

For instance, in the world of Avnul there is no moon, simply sun and stars.  The most obvious effect of this lack is that the night is significantly darker.  However, probably the most significant effect is upon the oceans.  No moon equals no regular tidal movement which equals significant differences in sea-travel and coastal life.  Animals that, in our world, depend on the tides as a regular part of their life cycle do not exist in Avnul, or exist in significantly different ways.  For instance a variety of small fish, various species of crab or mollusk, and some oceanic plant life simply are not present in the world of Avnul due to the lack of tidal movement.  Other types of crab are significantly more mobile in the world of Avnul because they are forced to move to and from the water, instead of the water moving to and from them.  The small fish that dwell in tidal pools are non-existent because they do not have the protection of the small ecosystem such regularly refilled pools offer.

What happens when you go away?

The lack of regular tidal movement also means that travel by ship is not hindered by the tide.  A ship does not have to wait for high tide to leave or dock at a port, for instance.  The lack of a moon also has a significant affect on the tracking of time.  Many, I can probably safely say most but I haven’t done the research necessary to back up such a statement, early calendars were based on the lunar month.  With no moon the means of tracking months generally revolves around seasons, which makes for much longer months, or religious standards.  The lack of a moon also means that months are not regular in their period of time, while one month might be only sixty to sixty five days another month might be over a hundred days.  Among the Neshelim there are two religious months that last only fifteen days each.

The stars are also very important, historically speaking, in religion and occult ritual.  For instance, medieval astrologers proposed connections between the planets and the greco-roman gods.  They also proposed mystical connections between various important constellations, the movement of the planets through said constellations, and events on earth.  Various forms of divination, such as augury (divination through studying the flight of birds) and haruspicy (divination through studying the entrails of animals) both compared their mediums to the placement of objects in the sky.  These connections are often nonsensical to the modern mind, but were intrinsic to the ancient mind.  Modern astrology still draws on many of these ancient connections to make its predictions.

Applying this to fantasy writing: in the world of Avnul the Longminjong identify thirteen important constellations in the sky, six individual stars (actually planets but the Longminjong have not yet made the distinction), and the sun.  The interaction of these celestial bodies is extremely important to their lives.

Astrology has been in practice, in one form or another, from before ancient Babylon to the modern day.

For instance the constellation named ‘The Rat’ is identified with certain days of the year, the color green, the mineral jade, the direction west, and several animals.  The Rat symbolizes cleverness, luck, ingenuity, and a mischievous nature.  Thus those individuals born on days that are associated with The Rat are expected to have a be clever, but troublemakers.  They are expected to pursue certain careers (such as thievery, politics, or engineering), to have a natural aptitude for certain tasks (public speaking, debate, or invention), and to be compatible with certain people.  The constellation is also called upon, and directs, a variety of magical techniques.  For instance The Rat might be called upon in the creation of a talisman intended to bring an individual good luck.  Such a talisman would be made from the tail of a rat or ferret (two animals associated with The Rat), it would be created while the maker was facing west, and require the use of jade implements to craft the amulet.  Alternatively such a talisman might be made in the west, with the pattern of the rat carved into a small jade tablet.

Among the Nemmi the common belief is that their gods live among the stars.  So the Nemmi identify certain groupings of stars with a particular god or spirit and will often create dances that mimic that pattern of stars as a part of their prayers.  A Nemmi who wished to draw the attention of a particular god might build a fire in the shape of that god’s constellation, and then dance in a pattern that mimics said constellation.  The Neshelim, on the other hand, generally look down on such astrological connections.  They do, however, use the stars to navigate through the desert, much as a sailor might use the stars to navigate through the sea.

These are just a few examples, from the world of Avnul, of how the sky can be used to great effect in your fantasy worlds.  So, what impact does the sky have on your world? Does it have an impact at all? Is this something you have thought about?