THE DISCOVERY OF NEPTUNE BY JOHN COUCH ADAMS, 1845 (3rd prize: 2016 competition)

I

Imagine it thus:
a ballroom full of ash and one speck moves.

It is not clearly to be seen, yet it whispers still.
I dreamed it, Your Majesty – that is how I knew.
I am heavy with the roundness of its birth. It kicks me.

Forgive me, for I babble.

II

I was born in Saltash, Your Majesty, a place you have not visited.
… from a tin-mining family, and I
from furlongs underground have won you a new planet,
orbed and imperial.

They would have been proud.

III

Prizeman, Sizar, Wrangler.

… Pronounced ‘Cooch’ Your Majesty.

… It is what Cambridge calls mathematicians
to keep dogs and commoners hence.

Saltash is but a village where the air
withers and turns grey.

IV

I once fell asleep, Your Majesty,
and my bookcase fell on me yet I slept on.
They say my head is uncommonly flat
and that I taste numbers.

V

Saltash. It is near Plymouth,
also, I understand, ungraced by your presence.

I heard it, I assure you.
It presses through the unseen.

… through precession, my sovereign. I beg you
do not ask me to explain.

Since you enquire – if Your Majesty
were to reign another hundred years
and take a carriage without pause each day of your reign
at the fastest speed eight horses could draw
you would not reach it, Your Majesty,
Besides, it is somewhat cold.

VI

Imagine it thus:
A core of diamonds
shining upon shining, an empire of chandeliers.
Crown it, crown it, for the day grows long

and your Neptune rides through the tin mines my sovereign
and glows with a faint orange-yellow light
on my father, his dead father,

and loves me.