Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Blog

MAA reading Daphne Astor

How Are We Beguiled

09th March 2013 | one Comment(s) | Museum of Archaeology and AnthropologyWhipple Museum of the History of Science

In the world of Persian Astrolabes

the points of the curved spikes

mark the exact positions of the brightest stars

with their names labeled at the base of each spike:

Sirius, Canopus, Arcturus, Capella


Horary Quadrants – the pocket size 17thc. ivory altitude dials

tell the time from the height of the sun to the earth

or the hour of the night from the stars

and thereby the length of the day and the night


in the Ancient Chinese tradition of honoring history over observation

they gave the titles ‘imperial concubine’ and ‘celestial emperor’

to the constellations on their sky globes.


Today murky uncertainties linger between science and desire

and still mankind embroiders the tree of life with theories

while toying with pleasures that both mock and fulfill.


Is the Grand Orrery a mere fanciful heavenly charm

for it is unknown to female nightingales

who migrate in darkness

waiting for the males to sing

and call them down out of the sky.



Daphne Astor

one Comment(s)


Anastasia Bow-Bertrand

15th March 2013

It is only recently that I have discovered Cambridge ‘proper’. Aside from the array of student societies are the offerings of a dynamic, cultural City. These have been the highlights of my past term, affording the brightest mix of people, histories and backgrounds.
Through the wonderful Thresholds initiative, my term has been marked by a poetry workshop in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology with Daljit Nagra. The project, which celebrates ten poets in residence at the University of Cambridge Museums and Collections, regularly holds poetry readings. At a brilliantly energised recital by Gillian Clarke at the University Library, I sat next to a lady who by day is a waitress, and by night an avid reader, currently embarking on her first novel.
Slowly, I am getting around the museums, reading, writing and listening as I go.

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