Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/581

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565
THE GREAT NEBULA IN ORION.

to us in continually-varying positions. It is not so with Orion. Divided centrally by the equator, the mighty hunter continues twelve hours above and twelve hours below the horizon. His shoulders are visible somewhat more, his feet somewhat less, than twelve hours. When he is in the south, he is seen as a giant with upraised arms, erect, and having one knee bent, as if he were ascending a height. Before him, as if raised on his left arm, is a curve of small stars, forming the shield, or target of lion's skin, which he is represented as uprearing in the face of Taurus. When Orion is in the east, his figure is inclined backward; when he is setting, he seems to be bent forward, as if rushing down a height; but he is never seen in an inverted position, like the northern constellations.

And we may note, in passing, that the figure of Orion, as he sets, does not exactly correspond with the image presented in that fine passage in "Maud:"

"I arose, and all by myself, in my own dark garden-ground,

Listening now to the tide, in its broad-flung shipwrecking roar,
Now to the scream of a maddened beach dragged down by the wave,
"Walked in a wintry wind, by a ghastly glimmer, and found
The shining daffodil dead, and Orion low in his grave;"

and again, toward the end of the poem:

".... It fell on a time of year

"When the face of night is fair on the dewy downs,
And the shining daffodil dies, and the charioteer
And starry Gemini hang like glorious crowns
Over Orion's grave low down in the west."

I would not, however, for one moment, be understood as finding fault with these passages of Tennyson's finest poem. Detached from the context, the image is undoubtedly faulty; but there is a correctness in the very incorrectness of the image, placed as it is in the mouth of one

"Raging alone as his father raged in his mood;"

brooding evermore on his father's self-murder:

"On a horror of shattered limbs ....

Mangled, and flattened, and crushed."

Let us pass on, however, to the subject of our paper.

Beneath the three bright stars which form the belt of Orion are several small stars, ranged, when Orion is in the south, in a vertical direction. These form the sword of the giant. On a clear night it is easy to see that the middle star of the sword presents a peculiarity of appearance: it shines as through a diffused haze. In an opera-glass this phenomenon is yet more easily recognizable. A very small telescope exhibits the cause of the peculiarity, for it is at once seen that