Late one night when the wind was still, Daddy brought the baby to the window sill To see a bit of heaven shoot across the sky, The one and only time Daddy saw it fly.

It came from the east just as bright as a torch. The neighbors had a party on their porch. Daddy rocked the baby, Mother said amen When Halley came to visit in 1910.

Now back then Jackson was a real small town. And it's not every night a comet comes around. It was almost eighty years since its last time through. So I bet your mother would have said amen too.

As its tail stretched out like a stardust streak, The papers wrote about it every day for a week. You wondered where it's going and where it's been When Halley came to Jackson in 1910.

Now Daddy told the baby sleeping in his arms To dream a little dream of a comet's charms. And he made a little wish as she slept so sound. In 1986 that wish came 'round.

It came from the east, just as bright as a torch. She saw it in the sky from her daddy's porch. As heavenly sent as it was back then When Halley came to Jackson in 1910.

Late one night when the wind was still…

~ Mary Chapin Carpenter

In 1998 Halley Came to Jackson, the eighth track on Mary Chapin Carpenter’s album Shooting Straight in The Dark (Columbia Records, 1990) was made into a children’s book, illustrated by Dan Andreasen. Inside the front and back covers of the book, dates of Halley’s Comet’s appearances are listed: 467 B.C., 392 B.C., 316 B.C... up to A.D. 1986.

Mary Chapin Carpenter credits Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings, a collection of essays about growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, with the inspiration for this lovely song:

Since that first reading, I have returned to the book countless times, for wisdom and inspiration, and for the rewards it offers to anyone who has ever felt the spark of creativity. It was a family story of her father bringing the infant Eudora over to the window to witness the comet Halley’s 1910 visit that inspired the song…

I know this makes me a sap, but this song makes me cry when I hear it. It also reminds me of a similarly themed (but differently toned) short story by E. L. Konigsburg, The Night of the Leonids. In the story, a spoiled kid is visiting his grandmother in NYC. The sixty-three year old grandmother wakes the kid up and drags him to Central Park in the middle of the night so that they can see the meteor shower, but it’s too cloudy to see anything. After complaining bitterly about having been brought there in the first place, the kid begins complaining that he’ll have to wait thirty-three years to have another chance to see the Leonids, and Grandmother smacks him:

”You add it up.” Grandmother said. Not kindly. So I did. I added it up. Sixty-three and thirty-three don’t add up to another chance.


Mary Chapin Carpenter, Halley Came to Jackson, 1998, HarperCollins Publishers.

E.L. Konigsburg, Altogether, One at a Time, 1971

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