Literature: The Green Hills of Earth

"The Green Hills Of Earth" is a short story by Robert A. Heinlein first published in 1947. It tells the "unofficial", warts-and-all, story of Rhysling, the blind singer of the spaceways, an engineer blinded in a shipboard incident who then wrote the songs which became an integral part of the future culture of humanity.


This short story provides examples of:

  • Bawdy Song: Rhysling's unpublished works are alluded to, occasionally by title, and described as being "unfit for publication in a family magazine".
  • Common Meter
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Rhysling's last song. After the spaceship he's hitching on suffers a core blowout, killing its engineer, the blind old hobo who happened to hitch a ride calls in to the control room...
    "Control."
    "Control aye aye."
    "Spilling jet three. Emergency."
    "Is this Macdougal?"
    "Macdougal is dead. This is Rhysling, on watch. Stand by to record.
  • Heroic RROD: The poet Rhysling makes critical repairs to a nuclear core, but sustains fatal radiation poisoning. He composes the eponymous song as he dies.
  • Hobos: Old blind Rhysling, the Singer of the Spaceways, is a kind of hobo. He's an unusual example, as he's built up something of a reputation as a wandering poet and is well-regarded by pretty much everyone.
  • Perilous Power Source: Rhysling loses his sight this way - he peers past the baffles of a rocket's reactor and is then blinded by Cherenkov radiation. Ouch.
  • Rules Lawyer: Technically, as a "Distressed Spaceman", Rhysling is entitled to a flight back to Earth. The fact that he didn't bother to take up that flight immediately but instead spent years wandering the solar system, drinking, whoring, and singing, does not technically invalidate that rule.
  • Walking the Earth: Rhysling. Until the accident that blinded him, he had been a spaceship engineer; after the accident, he took advantage of the law that a spacer could have one free trip home, using it to wander at will all over the solar system.