here you will do well to linger; here our highest good is pleasure”

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June 17, 2020

Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising through the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid
~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

The Pleiades are a vivid cluster of stars which have sparked the curiosity of stargazers for millennia, from the storytellers of ancient cultures to Britain’s great poets and their telescopes.

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Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians believed the stars were seven sisters who escaped into the sky and the ancient Greeks used the constellation as a primitive satnav, supposing they were the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione who was the mythical protectress of sailors.

In the 18th century the Seven Sisters played a stellar role in the philosophies of a man dubbed ‘one of the greatest unsung scientists of all time’.

Clergyman John Michell (1724-1793) spent many a chilly Yorkshire evening squinting at the Pleiades and one night he became the first ever person to envisage the concept of black holes, which he called ‘dark stars’.

Sadly, Reverend Michell struggled to promote some of his more innovative theories – a few of which were literally lightyears ahead of their time – and it wasn’t until 187 years later that academics credited him with his monumental dark star discovery.

For others, the Pleiades were something to appreciate rather than challenge the intellect and Tennyson’s expressive poem sums up the ethereal beauty and serenity of this twinkling spectacle which can usually be seen rising up from the night’s horizon.

And what better namesake could there be for the bright clustered blooms of the rambling Seven Sisters Rose (Rosa Multiflora) which is a joy to behold and best of all without the risk of a cricked neck or strained pair of eyes.