wordsout by godfrey rust
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Galileo and the four moons of Jupiter

He saw the first moon

bearing the fatal cup
      to Rome's lips.

He saw the second moon
dancing entranced
      around a different god.

With the third moon
the priest and people sang
      to a universe no longer listening,

and with the fourth moon
he knew what had enthralled a continent
      was not worth dying for.

Galileo's telescopic observations of the major moons of Jupiter in 1610 confirmed that the rest of the universe did not revolve around either the Earth or the Sun, paving the way for the dismantling of the earth-centred cosmology of the Bible. The commentary here plays on the names Galileo gave them from Greek mythology: Ganymede was a cupbearer for the gods on Olympus and Callisto a nymph who entranced Zeus with her dancing; Io was another nymph seduced by Zeus, but the play here is on a line from the Christmas carol Ding Dong Merrily On High, and Europa was also (seemingly inevitably) seduced by Zeus and her name was given to the continent.

It is now known that Jupiter has at least 79 moons.

Godfrey Rust 1998, godfrey@wordsout.co.uk. See here for permissions.