It's not "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer"!
May 29, 2010 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Help me identify a poem mentioned in Alan Moore's graphic novel "From Hell".

In Alan Moore's graphic novel "From Hell", the William Gull character mentions a poem I'd like to track down in the following bit of monologue:

"While I was yet in life, there was a verse I came to love about an aged scientist, stood at the precipice of his mortality. Long had he laboured in obscurity, and only God had known his secret works. Therefore, upon his death, he made receipt of God's reward: The universe and all of Space and Time as his laboratory, wherein to be about his work, his measurements and tests." (Chapter 14, page 7 of Alan Moore's From Hell).

The appendix cites this part of the story as drawn from the actual "William Withey Gull, a Biographical Sketch" (Adlard and Son, 1896) by Theodore Dyke Acland, but I haven't been able to track that down to see if it names the poem in question.

Any ideas?
posted by ollyolly to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think it's the poem quoted at the bottom of this page, from Gull's collected writings. It appears the poem is not by Gull himself but by one of his pupils, Frank Smith.
He hath received him and
. . . hath given charge to such
As are the mightiest around His throne
That he should learn the springs of law and fate,
The secrets and the mysteries whereof
The bounds are space, the time eternity.
Sound right?
posted by cirripede at 4:56 PM on May 29, 2010

Best answer: OK—after some further searching, I'm certain that is the correct poem. Here is a link to the full text of William Withey Gull: A Biographical Sketch by Acland, which is reproduced as the "Memoir" section of the collected works I linked previously.
posted by cirripede at 5:06 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow--thank you for the thorough research and explanation!
posted by ollyolly at 12:42 AM on May 30, 2010

You're welcome! Unfortunately, Acland does not quote the full poem (hence all the ellipses). If you'd like to read the whole thing, you could probably track it down through interlibrary loan—the poem is titled "The Worker" and appears to have been published in Poems (London, 1864; 2nd ed. 1879), by William Frank Smith. Here is a WorldCat listing for both editions of the book—looks pretty rare. Or if you have lots of money to throw around, you could buy a copy.

Thanks for posting this; I love hunting down Victorian arcana and this is a neat find.
posted by cirripede at 9:09 AM on May 30, 2010

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