3 February 2009

Mars Rover Poetry by John Updike

Posted by melissa

I wish every day could start out like today: I get my coffee, fire up the laptop, and only have one email waiting for me.  And it contains a poem I’ve never read.  By John Updike.  About Spirit and Opportunity:

Duet on Mars

by John Updike

Said Spirit to Opportunity, 
   “I’m feeling rather frail, 
With too much in my memory, 
   Plus barrels of e-mail.” 

Responded Opportunity, 
   “My bounce was not so bad, 
But now they send me out to see 
   These dreary rocks, bedad!” 

“It’s cold up here, and rather red,” 
   Sighed Spirit. “I feel faint.” 
Good Opportunity then said, 
   “Crawl on, without complaint! 

“This planet needs our shovels’ bite 
   And treadmarks in the dust 
To tell if life and hematite 
   Pervade its arid crust.” 

“There’s life, by all the stars above, 
   On Mars—it’s you and I!” 
Blithe Spirit cried. “Let’s rove, my love, 
   And meet before we die!” 

I love it.  Updike’s rovers are eloquent romantics.  They feel the weight of their adversity, yet a deep commitment to the science compels them forward.  They remind me of graduate students.

As far as personified rovers go, I’ll take Updike’s Spirit and Opportunity over LiveJournal’s spritrover and opportunitygrrl any day.

Yes it’s true – someone has written LiveJournals for the Mars Exploration Rovers.  They are slangy teenage sisters, intensely jealous of each other’s fame, who offer “big rover hugz” to the “Earthpeeps” who read their journals.  They’re hilarious, actually, and you should definitely check them out.  

But their voices don’t exactly carry the same poetic reverence as John Updike’s.  We will miss him.