dimanche 5 octobre 2008

Ursa Minor 7

The other, less in size but valued more by sailors,
Circles with all her stars in smaller orbit.

Poste's Aratos. [Phaen. 25] .
Ursa Minor, the Orsa Minore of Italy, Petite Ourse of France, and Kleine Bär of Germany, shared with its major companion the latter's Septentrio, Ἄρκτος, Ἅμαξα, Ἄγαννα, and Ἑλίκη.
Similarly it was Κυνόσουρις, but solely Κυνόσουρα; this early and universal title, usually translated the "Dog's Tail," continuing as Cynosura down to the time of the Rudolphine Tables; although with us "Cynosure" is applied only to Polaris. The origin of this word is uncertain, for the star group does not answer to its name unless the dog himself be attached; still some, recalling a variant legend of Kallisto and her Dog instead of Arcas, have thought that here lay the explanation. Others have drawn this title from that of the Attican promontory east of Marathon, because sailors, on their approach to it from the sea, saw these stars shining above it and beyond; but if there be any connection at all here, the reversed derivation is more probable; while Bournouf asserted that it is in no way associated with the Greek word for "dog."
Cox identified the word with Λυκόσουρα, which he renders Tail, or Train, of Light. Yet this does not seem appropriate to a comparatively faint constellation, and would rather recall the city of that title in Arcadia, the country so intimately connected with the Bears. But the stellar name probably long antedated the geographical, old as this was; Pausanias [8.38, 8.2] considering Lycosura the most ancient city in the world, having been founded by Lycaon some time before the Deluge of Deucalion. Indeed the Arcadians asserted that they and their country antedated the creation of the moon, an assertion which gave occasion to Aristotle's term for them, — Προσέληνοι and the Latins' Proselenes.
Singularly coincident with the foregoing Λυκόσουρα was the title that the distant Gaels gave to these stars, — Drag-blod, the Fire Tail.
Very recently, however, Brown has suggested that the word is not Hellenic in origin, but Euphratean; and, in confirmation of this, mentions a constellation title from that valley, transcribed by Sayce as An‑ta-sur‑ra, the Upper Sphere. Brown reads this An‑nas-sur‑ra, High in Rising, certainly very appropriate to Ursa Minor; and he compares it with Κ‑υν‑όσ‑ου‑ρα, or, the initial consonant being omitted, Unosoura. This, singularly like the Euphratean original,
might easily become Kunosoura under the influence of a popular etymology, aided by the appearance of the tail stars of the constellation. And in exact accordance with the foregoing view is the following somewhat curious ( The passage is "curious" because the expression head of Cynosura would literally mean "the head of the tail of the bear"; and is thus an indication that Cynosura originally meant something else ) passage in the Phainomena, 308‑9:

Then, too, the head of Kynosure runs very high,
When night begins.
Ursa Minor was not mentioned by Homer or Hesiod, for, according to Strabo, it was not admitted among the constellations of the Greeks until about 600 B.C., when Thales, inspired by its use in Phoenicia, his probable birthplace, suggested it to the Greek mariners in place of its greater neighbor, which till then had been their sailing guide. Aratos, comparing the two, wrote, as in our motto, of the Minor, its Guards, β and γ, then being much nearer the pole than was α, our present pole-star. Thales is reported to have formed it by utilizing the ancient wings of Draco, perceiving that the seven chief components somewhat resembled the well-known Wain, but reversed with respect to each other. From all this come its titles Φοινίκη, Phoenice, and Ursa Phoenicia.
The later classical story that made sister nymphs out of the stars of our two Bears, and nurses on Mount Ida of the infant Jove, is alluded to by Manilius in his line:
p449 The Little Bear that rock'd the mighty Jove.
Although occasionally, but wrongly, figured and described as equal in size, — Euripides wrote:
Twin Bears, with the swift-wandering rushings of their tails, guard the Atlantean pole,—
they have always occupied their present respective positions, and, as Manilius said:
stand not front to front but each doth view
The others Tayl, pursu'd as they pursue;
the scientific poet Erasmus Darwin of the last century, grandfather of Charles Robert Darwin of this, imitating this in his Economy of Vegetation:

Onward the kindred Bears, with footsteps rude,
Dance round the pole, pursuing and pursued.

This "dancing" of the stars generally, as well as of the planets, was a favorite simile, and in classical days specially gave name to δ and ε of this constellation, as well as in Hindu astronomy; while Dante thus applied it to all those that were circumpolar:

Like unto stars neighboring the steadfast poles,
Ladies they seemed, not from the dance released.

The Arabians knew Ursa Minor as Al Dubb al Aṣghar, the Lesser Bear, — Bayer's Dhub Elezguar, and Chilmead's Dub Alasgar, — although earlier it was even more familiar to them as another Bier; and they called the three stars in the tail of our figure Banāt al Naʽash al Ṣughrā, the Daughters of the Lesser Bier.
Here, and in Ursa Major, some early commentators located the Fold, an ancient stellar figure of the Arabs, and an appropriate title, as Firuzabadi called β and the gammas in Ursa Minor Al Farḳadain, usually rendered the Two Calves, but, better, the Two Young Ibexes; Polaris, too, was well known as a Young He Goat, and adjacent stars bore names of desert animals more or less associated with a fold. Perhaps Lowell had this in mind when he wrote, in Prometheus, of

The Bear that prowled all night about the fold
Of the North-star.

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