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  1. #1
    vanveen Guest

    Unclear expression

    Hello, could anybody help me please?
    I've recently read the following poem:
    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.

    What exactly does its final line mean? I know what its literal translation is, but perhaps there is some kind of wordplay used there, or something. So I'd be very grateful if someone could interpret it for me.

  2. #2
    Tdol is online now Editor,
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Japan
    Join Date
    Nov 2002

    Re: Unclear expression

    He'll be dead before the light that was leaving the stars at the time of the first verse arrives here . The adding noughts probably has something to do with the arithmetic in calculating these distances- if there's no one to see the light, then all those zeros involved in travelling light years are meaningless- that's how I interpret it, though it's not very clear to me.

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