You are in the milieu of an oratory, the floor around you reeling in the half dark, warps of sunlight from the clerestory woven with the woof of a lyrical aria, no, not even that – not opera or oratory but a spiritual:

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the saviour did come for to die
For poor ornery people like you and like I…

Ornery… are you so inured to the universe? But what is this arrangement of orbs that rallies around the origin of the circle dominated by the dome? Is it an horarius, an horary rotator revealing the hour airily? No, it artfully represents the errant planets – planet, wanderer: they wander, these spheres, in the music, in no hurry, and if you handle the gears they turn with a sound that is as liquid as the movement, a rolling sound that names the object: orrery.

An orrery! A whirl of worlds around the sun. A set of orbs wandering wondrously, such as this small one here that represents our own sphere on which we all wander and wonder. We know a boilery is a place where they boil, and a brewery where they brew; owlery is owlish behaviour, an antonym to raillery; so is an orrery a place where we have or or or, or a tendency to find such options, such alternate universes to revel in, a choice between horror and hooray in every rearing hour? Or is it really an errory, so error-riddled even its error is erring?

An orrery, really, is this mechanical assembly that represents the solar system. Designs have been made for such apparatuses through the eras, and various erudite minds have endeavoured to plan it, but in modern times two horarists, clockmakers, George Graham and Thomas Tompion, made the first as we know it in 1704. They asked John Rowley (a nice rolling word, Rowley) to make a copy for Prince Eugene of Savoy. In all of this, are we hearing of it being called a graham or a tompion or a rowley or a savoy? Hardly. But Rowley made another for his patron, Charles Boyle, fourth earl of Orrery. When he rendered it, he declared it to be an orrery.

And where is Orrery? Some rural area? In fact, it’s in Eire (Ireland), in the south – Cork. The peerage was created for the soldier Roger Boyle in 1660. The name is an anglicization of a place name, originally a tribe name: Orbhraighe. “Orb’s people.”

Wander around this orrery. Watch as the world turns; hear the wrangling gears of the music of the spheres, “orrery, orrery.” You are on the earth, one of our orb’s people, and this rounding ball is a representation of it all: in that spot there you are, regarding your earth, hearing this air. You wonder and you wander, whether you plan it or not, but you are always around this planetarium, this orrery, with all the ornery people, and all these ors to turn again.

2 responses to “orrery

  1. “Can’t keep my eyes from the circling sky,
    Tongue-tied and twisted; just an earth-bound misfit. I”

    Even reading silently to myself my tongue is twisted on all the vicious growling rrrrrrrrs.

  2. Pingback: ornery | Sesquiotica

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