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Every Monday morning at 6:31 and 8:31, IPR News Radio looks into the night sky with Mary Stewart Adams, former Program Director and founder of the International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands, who has been telling stories of the night sky on IPR since 2013.

Mercury Retrograde Meets the Sun: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky


Upon a time, before the faery broods drove Nymph and Satyr from the prosperous woods,

Before King Oberon's bright diadem, sceptre, and mantle, clasp'd with dewy gem

Frighted away the Dryads and the Fauns, from rushes green, and brakes, and cowslip'd lawns,

The ever-smitten hermes empty left his golden thone, bent warm on amorous theft...

These are the words of English Romatic poet John Keats, from his poem "Lamia", which begins with the Greek god Hermes, known as Mercury to the Romans, stealing light from Olympus to make his way to Earth to find his beloved Floris, the flower goddess who scatters the roses and violets ahead of the advancing Sun at dawn.

I like this poem for this week because the planet Mercury, now in its apparent retrograde motion until March 28th, makes its inferior conjunction with the Sun on Thursday. This is the peak of the retrograde cycle.

I also like this poem because Keats changes up the storyline a bit: in the ancient mythology, Mercury doesn't steal light from Olympus, he steals the net of Vulcan. Vulcan made the net to catch his beloved Venus in an illicit affair with Mars, and after he succeeded in that unfortunate task, the net was stolen by Mercury and hidden away at the sunrise spot on the Earth, where he used it to catch Floris.

Keats wrote this poem when he was struggling with the decision to either get a paying job to support himself, or try to make it in life as a poet. He chose poetry! But sadly, he died two years after the prolific period during which he wrote this poem "Lamia."

You can't see Mercury at inferior conjunction, but you can imagine him hiding there at the sunrise spot, especially when you see color splashed across the dawn before the Sun breaks the horizon.

You can read the full poem at this link: Lamia by John Keats