Louis MacNeice


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.