Saturday, December 17, 2011

Comet of 1664


‘Saturday December 17, 1664…So home and to my office, where late, and then home to bed. Mighty talke there is of this Comet that is seen a’nights; and the King and Queene did sit up last night to see it, and did, it seems. And to-night I thought to have done so too; but it is cloudy, and so no stars appear. But I will endeavour it…’

The comet Samuel Pepys mentions in his diary was visible over England for several months, beginning around December 14, 1664.  Comets equal portents, to some, including, perhaps, John Dryden, as related in “The Life of John Dryden”, with notes, historical, critical, and explanatory, by Walter Scott, esq,

‘A comet was seen on the 14th of December, 1664, which lasted almost three months…Comets, it is well known, were in extremely bad repute among the astrologers of this period.  Lilly, an unquestionable authority, treats these stars with extreme severity; hardly justifiable by his blunt averment, that “truth is truth, and a horse is a horse.”  Dryden himself, not contented with turning these two blazing stars (1664 and 1665) into farthing candles, has elsewhere, in this poem, charged with causing pestilence, and the great fire of London:
The utmost malice of the stars is past;
            And two dire comets, which have scourged the town,
In hteir own plague and fire have breathed their last,
            Or dimly in their sinking sockets frown.….’ 

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