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The Green Hills of Earth -- Robert A Heinlein

Inspired by Martin's science fiction reference...
(Poem #241) The Green Hills of Earth
Let the sweet fresh breezes heal me
As they rove around the girth
Of our lovely mother planet
Of the cool, green hills of Earth.

We rot in the moulds of Venus,
We retch at her tainted breath.
Foul are her flooded jungles,
Crawling with unclean death.

[ --- the harsh bright soil of Luna ---
 --- Saturn's rainbow rings ---
 --- the frozen night of Titan --- ]

We've tried each spinning space mote
And reckoned its true worth:
Take us back again to the homes of men
On the cool, green hills of Earth.

The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
ALL HANDS!  STAND BY!  FREE FALLING!
And the lights below us fade.

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet ---

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the friendly skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.
-- Robert A Heinlein
[Taken from Heinlein's brilliant short story of the same name]

In the short story (which, btw, is one of the true classics of sf - read it!),
today's poem is the work of Rhysling, the 'Blind Singer of the Spaceways'. I
won't spoil the story for you by revealing the plot; suffice to say that the
SFWA's annual poetry award is now called the Rhysling Award. Honour enough,
wouldn't you say?

As for the poem itself, I think it's quite strong enough to stand on its own.
Apart from inspiring countless filks (indeed, the very concept of filk [1] can
perhaps be traced back to Rhysling), it has a simplicity which sets it apart
from the majority of poems with similar themes.

I especially like the last stanza - every word seems perfect; any change would
be for the worse.

thomas.

[1]  "music that readers of science fiction enjoy playing and writing, usually
with acid social commentary and humor, and sometimes sheer beauty that makes you
cry and shiver." - definition courtesy Martin, who likes the stuff (I don't.).
Flame him, not me.

PS. The gap in the middle is not because I don't remember the words, but because
Heinlein himself never expanded on these stanzas beyond the phrases featured in
[]s.

51 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

W.Wilcox said...

This poem was used in the 50's BBC radio series 'Journey Into Space' by Charles Chilton - as the Rebel Song in part 3 - 'the Earth In Peril' - it has a haunting tune. There is a recording of the series. The missing verses are filled out.

Bill

W.S.Wilcox

Scott J. Mark said...

This is a bit awkward. Thomas mentions that in the last stanza "every
word seems perfect; any change would be for the worse."

But along with other errors the last stanza is _wrong_. From "The Past
Through Tomorrow" the last line is:

Let us rest our eyes on fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth"

United Airlines was the big proponent of The Friendly Skies.

sjm

James/Alasdair mac Iain said...

Well, if you don't want to use the tune from Gilligan's Island, the
following songs all have the same metric index (i.e., can be sung to each
other's tunes):

Amazing Grace
The House of the Rising Song
Ode to Joy (Beethoven's Ninth Symphony)
Clementine
The Marine Corps Hymn

Anonymous said...

if anybody has an audio clip of this itd be much appreciated

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Anonymous said...

Here:
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not mine, I just found it.
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Zidders Roofurry said...

This isn't a bot. I know this is an old article, but I just had to thank you for the lyrics by pointing you towards this young womans hauntingly beautiful version of this song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRAG16mrkxA&list=UUvliQ4eufOtmTe1CPKEHlZA

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