(The). A great circle of stars entirely surrounding the heavens. They are so crowded together that they appear to the naked eye like a “way” or stream of faint “milky” light. The Galaxy or Via Lactea.
A broad and ample road, whose dust is gold And pavement stars, as stars to thee appear, Seen in the galaxy- that Milky Way, Thick, nightly, as a circling zone, thou seest Powdered with stars.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894