(with apologies to William Wordsworth)
Five years have past, here on this ship; but back on Earth,
It’s more like fifty. Traveling so swiftly, so close to light-speed,
Time itself bends and tarries. And still I rise and still I plummet
Into the desperate Void, and again I hear the engines hum,
Their soft purr the only sound in the quiet of the sky, beyond
These breaths I take of recycling air, the only wind there is
For me to feel.
The dawn has come, according to the chronometer,
And it is day at Tintern Abbey. For one fleeting moment,
She is turned to me, and with telescopic imagination, may see—
But I am past the sun and she will not see me today,
Nor will her children’s children, that might have been mine,
Had I stayed.
And I again repose, inside my Hermit’s cave,
My backward-facing terrace, to watch my home recede,
My only comfort now these bulk-heads, hardly bulkheads anymore,
But the very skin protecting my organs and my mind
From the harsh, cold nothing Outside.
And now, with blinks
Of half-dreaming consciousness, with a somewhat lonely understanding
And relief that in this moment, there is life and food for future years,
I dare to hope, as long as the compilers don’t give out.
But there are few promises to be got, and untold dangers.
The computer chirps, a sound not harsh or grating,
But of ample power to chasten and subdue, and in her voice I catch
The language of the heart I might once have had. On the screen,
She shows me how time has passed and all my aching joys are now
No more, and all her dizzy raptures. Once again do I behold the man
I once was, before I was laid to rest here and this ship
Became a living Soul, how then I was more like a man
Flying from somewhere that he dreads, than one seeking out
Such empty realms as no human soul has seen before.
I cannot paint what then I was and yet I see it still, traces
Like shards of former selves in this AI’s programming.
For I can so inform the mind that is within her
As to approximate a feeling and a love that have no need
Of a remoter charm, by thought supplied with deep impressions
Of pleasures not remembered but felt in the blood and felt along the heart,
And by these means I can say that I am still
A lover of fields and of streams, of forests and towns,
And cars and sports and TV shows and iPod Touches
And intimacy, and of all of you who still behold them on that green Earth.
Therefore let the distant sun shine on you all in your solitary plight
And let the currents of space and time be free to blow against me.
When my lonely pod shall be an Ark for all lovely forms,
Then memory be as a resting place for all sweet sounds and harmonies
Oh! now, if solititude and fear and pain and grief are to be my portion,
Here at least I can look up all my tender joy as healing thoughts
To remember thee through all the years of this my life.
So must we see life into merest things, even out in these barrens,
To lead our fragile, precious minds from joy to joy, yet
While I behold in thee what I once was, my dear, dear Sister,
My daughter, my trusted steed, still I must hold out hope
That out there, somewhere, Nature still abides, the vacuum
Teems with life and though I may well have left behind
All that has ever been known and called “Life”,
That nature and statistics will allow this arrow shot past the sun
To yet somehow find some mark, that some wayward benefactor
Might yet see this flare shot into the night, might catch it, and,
Like the shooting star it so desperately tries to mimic, put me in her pocket.
If this be but a vain belief and the Universe devoid of any
Alien Life, if we are truly as alone in the dark as I, here,
Deprived of the many shapes of joyous daylight,
How oft, in the spirit of longing, may I turn to thee and ask thee
Thou Dreamer in the Void, thou infinite realm of possibilities,
How often must my Spirit turn to thee!
If I must stay here, where I no more can hear men’s voices,
No more look into women’s eyes, if I must abandon
All the trappings and all the pastimes of the home I once had,
If I should die here on this ship, my home fall into disrepair
And fall into a distant sun a billion miles from Tintern Abbey,
Then at least for now in this precious event in space-time,
I have you, my dearest Friend, my dear, dear Friend,
To help me stare out into space and bring context and meaning
To the Universe.