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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index P > Category: Poem

Poem Quotes (92 quotes)

Ode to The Amoeba
Recall from Time's abysmal chasm
That piece of primal protoplasm
The First Amoeba, strangely splendid,
From whom we're all of us descended.
That First Amoeba, weirdly clever,
Exists today and shall forever,
Because he reproduced by fission;
He split himself, and each division
And subdivision deemed it fitting
To keep on splitting, splitting, splitting;
So, whatsoe'er their billions be,
All, all amoebas still are he.
Zoologists discern his features
In every sort of breathing creatures,
Since all of every living species,
No matter how their breed increases
Or how their ranks have been recruited,
From him alone were evoluted.
King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba
And Hoover sprang from that amoeba;
Columbus, Shakespeare, Darwin, Shelley
Derived from that same bit of jelly.
So famed is he and well-connected,
His statue ought to be erected,
For you and I and William Beebe
Are undeniably amoebae!
(1922). Collected in Gaily the Troubadour (1936), 18.
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The Mighty Task is Done

At last the mighty task is done;
Resplendent in the western sun
The Bridge looms mountain high;
Its titan piers grip ocean floor,
Its great steel arms link shore with shore,
Its towers pierce the sky.

On its broad decks in rightful pride,
The world in swift parade shall ride,
Throughout all time to be;
Beneath, fleet ships from every port,
Vast landlocked bay, historic fort,
And dwarfing all the sea.

To north, the Redwood Empires gates;
To south, a happy playground waits,
In Rapturous appeal;
Here nature, free since time began,
Yields to the restless moods of man,
Accepts his bonds of steel.

Launched midst a thousand hopes and fears,
Damned by a thousand hostile sneers,
Yet Neer its course was stayed,
But ask of those who met the foe
Who stood alone when faith was low,
Ask them the price they paid.

Ask of the steel, each strut and wire,
Ask of the searching, purging fire,
That marked their natal hour;
Ask of the mind, the hand, the heart,
Ask of each single, stalwart part,
What gave it force and power.

An Honored cause and nobly fought
And that which they so bravely wrought,
Now glorifies their deed,
No selfish urge shall stain its life,
Nor envy, greed, intrigue, nor strife,
Nor false, ignoble creed.

High overhead its lights shall gleam,
Far, far below lifes restless stream,
Unceasingly shall flow;
For this was spun its lithe fine form,
To fear not war, nor time, nor storm,
For Fate had meant it so.

Written upon completion of the building of the Golden Gate Bridge, May 1937. In Allen Brown, Golden Gate: biography of a Bridge (1965), 229.
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The Redwoods

Here, sown by the Creator's hand,
In serried ranks, the Redwoods stand;
No other clime is honored so,
No other lands their glory know.

The greatest of Earth's living forms,
Tall conquerors that laugh at storms;
Their challenge still unanswered rings,
Through fifty centuries of kings.

The nations that with them were young,
Rich empires, with their forts far-flung,
Lie buried now—their splendor gone;
But these proud monarchs still live on.

So shall they live, when ends our day,
When our crude citadels decay;
For brief the years allotted man,
But infinite perennials' span.

This is their temple, vaulted high,
And here we pause with reverent eye,
With silent tongue and awe-struck soul;
For here we sense life's proper goal;

To be like these, straight, true and fine,
To make our world, like theirs, a shrine;
Sink down, oh traveler, on your knees,
God stands before you in these trees.
In The Record: Volumes 60-61 (1938), 39.
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Gilbert shall live, till Load-stones cease to draw,
Or British Fleets the boundless Ocean awe.
'Of Miscellany Poems To my Honor’d Friend Dr. Charleton On his Learned and Useful Works; But more particularly his Treatise of Stone-Heng, By him restored to the true Founders', collected in Poetical Miscellanies: The Fifth Part (1704), 39. (Dr Walter Charleton was physician in ordinary to King Charles I. His treatise on Stonehenge was published in 1663.)
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A Lady with a Lamp shall stand
In the great history of the land,
A noble type of good,
Heroic womanhood.
'Santa Filomena' (1857), The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? (1867), 333.
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A poem in my opinion, is opposed to a work of science by having for its immediate object, pleasure, not truth.
'Letter to B——— ———', in Southern Literary Messenger (Jul 1836). Quoted in Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (1917), 169, and Appendix, 311. According to different commentators, B——— may be merely a fictional character, or Bulwer-Lyton, or the publisher Elam Bliss.
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A poet is, after all, a sort of scientist, but engaged in a qualitative science in which nothing is measurable. He lives with data that cannot be numbered, and his experiments can be done only once. The information in a poem is, by definition, not reproducible. ... He becomes an equivalent of scientist, in the act of examining and sorting the things popping in [to his head], finding the marks of remote similarity, points of distant relationship, tiny irregularities that indicate that this one is really the same as that one over there only more important. Gauging the fit, he can meticulously place pieces of the universe together, in geometric configurations that are as beautiful and balanced as crystals.
In The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974, 1995), 107.
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Had ’em.
Poem (1904) answering the question: How old are fleas?. 'On the Antiquity of Microbes', Strickland W. Gillilan. For some years it was considered the shortest poem until 'Lines on the Questionable Importance of the Individual': “I … Why?” appeared from Anon. (As quoted in S.N. Behrman, The New Yorker (27 May 1972), 38-81. In The Lyceum News (1911), 2, No. 1, 15, it is noted that 14-year-old Charles E. Varney, Jr. recited the poem in his English class, but the teacher said the assignment had specified a poem to be complete in at least four lines long. So he continued: “Well’m / I'll add ’em / So had / Madam.”
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And from my pillow, looking forth by light
Of moon or favouring stars, I could behold
The antechapel where the statue stood
Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
The marble index of a mind for ever
Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.
'Residence at Cambridge', The Prelude, or, Growth of a Poet's Mind: An Autobiographical Poem (1850), Book 3, 57-58.
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And indeed I am not humming,
Thus to sing of Cl-ke and C-ming,
Who all the universe surpasses
in cutting up and making gases;
With anatomy and chemics,
Metaphysics and polemics,
Analyzing and chirugery,
And scientific surgery …
H-slow's lectures on the cabbage
Useful are as roots of Babbage;
Fluxions and beet-root botany,
Some would call pure monotony.
Punch in Cambridge (28 Jan 1834). In Mark Weatherall, Gentlemen, Scientists, and Medicine at Cambridge 1800-1940 (2000), Vol. 3,77. The professors named were William Clark (anatomy), James Cumming (chemistry) and Johns Stephens Henslow (botany).
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And new philosophy calls all in doubt,
The Element of fire is quite put out;
The Sun is lost, and th’earth, and no mans wit
Can well direct him where to look for it.
And freely men confesse that this world’s spent,
When in the Planets, and the Firmament
They seeke so many new; and then see that this
Is crumbled out againe to his Atomies.
’Tis all in pieces, all cohaerence gone;
All just supply, and all Relation;
Prince, Subject, Father, Sonne, are things forgot,
For every man alone thinkes he hath got
To be a phoenix, and that then can bee
None of that kinde, of which he is, but hee.
An Anatomie of the World, I. 205-18. The Works of John Donne (Wordsworth edition 1994), 177.
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At quite uncertain times and places,
The atoms left their heavenly path,
And by fortuitous embraces,
Engendered all that being hath.
And though they seem to cling together,
And form 'associations' here,
Yet, soon or late, they burst their tether,
And through the depths of space career.
From 'Molecular Evolution', Nature, 8, 1873. In Lewis Campbell and William Garnett, The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (1882), 637.
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But beyond the bright searchlights of science,
Out of sight of the windows of sense,
Old riddles still bid us defiance,
Old questions of Why and of Whence.
from Recent Development of Physical Science (p. 10)
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By death the moon was gathered in Long ago, ah long ago;
Yet still the silver corpse must spin
And with another's light must glow.
Her frozen mountains must forget
Their primal hot volcanic breath,
Doomed to revolve for ages yet,
Void amphitheatres of death.
And all about the cosmic sky,
The black that lies beyond our blue,
Dead stars innumerable lie,
And stars of red and angry hue
Not dead but doomed to die.
'Cosmic Death' (1923), in The Captive Shrew and Other Poems of a Biologist (1932), 30.
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By firm immutable immortal laws Impress’d on Nature by the GREAT FIRST CAUSE,
Say, MUSE! how rose from elemental strife
Organic forms, and kindled into life;
How Love and Sympathy with potent charm
Warm the cold heart, the lifted hand disarm;
Allure with pleasures, and alarm with pains,
And bind Society in golden chains.
From 'Production of Life', The Temple of Nature; or, The Origin of Society: A Poem, with Philosophical Notes (1803), 3, Canto I, lines 1-8.
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By science calmed, over the peaceful soul,
Bright with eternal Wisdom's lucid ray,
Peace, meek of eye, extends her soft control,
And drives the puny Passions far away.
Memoirs of the Life of Sir Humphry Davy, in J. Davy (ed.), The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy. (1839-40), Vol 1, 26.
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Could Hamlet have been written by a committee, or the “Mona Lisa” painted by a club? Could the New Testament have been composed as a conference report? Creative ideas do not spring from groups. They spring from individuals. The divine spark leaps from the finger of God to the finger of Adam, whether it takes ultimate shape in a law of physics or a law of the land, a poem or a policy, a sonata or a mechanical computer.
Baccalaureate address (9 Jun 1957), Yale University. In In the University Tradition (1957), 156.
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Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine
Unweave a rainbow.
Lamia 1820, II, lines 229-37. In John Barnard (ed.), John Keats. The Complete Poems (1973), 431.
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Dr Bell fell down the well
And broke his collar bone
Doctors should attend the sick
And leave the well alone.
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Each pregnant Oak ten thousand acorns forms
Profusely scatter’d by autumnal storms;
Ten thousand seeds each pregnant poppy sheds
Profusely scatter’d from its waving heads;
The countless Aphides, prolific tribe,
With greedy trunks the honey’d sap imbibe;
Swarm on each leaf with eggs or embryons big,
And pendent nations tenant every twig ...
—All these, increasing by successive birth,
Would each o’erpeople ocean, air, and earth.
So human progenies, if unrestrain’d,
By climate friended, and by food sustain’d,
O’er seas and soils, prolific hordes! would spread
Erelong, and deluge their terraqueous bed;
But war, and pestilence, disease, and dearth,
Sweep the superfluous myriads from the earth...
The births and deaths contend with equal strife,
And every pore of Nature teems with Life;
Which buds or breathes from Indus to the Poles,
And Earth’s vast surface kindles, as it rolls!
The Temple of Nature (1803), canto 4, lines 347-54, 367-74, 379-82, pages 156-60.
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Evolution: At the Mind's Cinema
I turn the handle and the story starts:
Reel after reel is all astronomy,
Till life, enkindled in a niche of sky,
Leaps on the stage to play a million parts.
Life leaves the slime and through all ocean darts;
She conquers earth, and raises wings to fly;
Then spirit blooms, and learns how not to die,-
Nesting beyond the grave in others' hearts.
I turn the handle: other men like me
Have made the film: and now I sit and look
In quiet, privileged like Divinity
To read the roaring world as in a book.
If this thy past, where shall they future climb,
O Spirit, built of Elements and Time?
'Evolution: At the Mind's Cinema' (1922), in The Captive Shrew and Other Poems of a Biologist (1932), 55.
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Exact science and its practical movements are no checks on the greatest poet, but always his encouragement and support … The sailor and traveller, the anatomist, chemist, astronomer, geologist, phrenologist, spiritualist, mathematician, historian and lexicographer are not poets, but they are the lawgivers of poets and their construction underlies the structure of every perfect poem.
In Walt Whitman and William Michael Rossetti (ed.), 'Preface to the First Edition of Leaves of Grass', Poems By Walt Whitman (1868), 46.
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Force, then, is Force, but mark you! Not a thing,
Only a Vector;
Thy barbèd arrows now have lost their sting,
Impotent spectre!
Thy reign, O force! is over. Now no more
Heed we thine action;
Repulsion leaves us where we were before,
So does attraction.
Both Action and Reaction now are gone.
Just ere they vanished,
Stress joined their hands in peace, and made them one;
Then they were banished....
Reproduced in Bruce Clarke, Energy Forms: Allegory and Science in the Era of Classical Thermodynamics (2001), 20-21. In his parody of Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, Maxwell presents Newton's laws of motion updated into axioms of energy.
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From Harmony, from heav’nly Harmony
This universal Frame began.
From 'A Song for St. Cecila's Day' (1687), lines 1-2, in James Kinsley (ed.), The Poems and Fables of John Dryden (1962), 422.
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Go on, fair Science; soon to thee
Shall Nature yield her idle boast;
Her vulgar lingers formed a tree,
But thou hast trained it to a post.
'The meeting of the Dryads' (1830), Poems (1891), 152.
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Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn have, greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.
[He was imitating: 'So, naturalists observe, a flea Has smaller fleas that on him prey; And these have smaller still to bite 'em; And so proceed ad infinitum.' Poetry, a Rhapsody, by Jonathan Swift.]
A Budget of Paradoxes (1915), first published 1872, Vol. 2, 191.

How often might a man, after he had jumbled a set of letters in a bag, fling them out upon the ground before they would fall into an exact poem, yea, or so much as make a good discourse in prose. And may not a little book be as easily made by chance as this great volume of the world.
In The Works of the Most Reverend Dr. John Tillotson (1714), 15.
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I abide in a goodly Museum,
Frequented by sages profound:
'Tis a kind of strange mausoleum,
Where the beasts that have vanished abound.
There's a bird of the ages Triassic,
With his antediluvian beak,
And many a reptile Jurassic,
And many a monster antique.
'Ballad of the Ichthyosaurus', Dreams to Sell (1887), 14.
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I like relativity and quantum theories
because I don't understand them
and they make me feel as if space shifted about
like a swan that
can't settle,
refusing to sit still and be measured;
and as if the atom were an impulsive thing
always changing its mind.
'Relativity', David Herbert Lawrence, The Works of D.H. Lawrence (1994), 437.
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I must confess the language of symbols is to me
A Babylonish dialect
Which learned chemists much affect;
It is a party-coloured dress
Of patch'd and piebald languages:
'T is English cut on Greek and Latin,
Like fustian heretofore on satin.
'Additional Observations on the Use of Chemical Symbols', Philosophical Magazine, Third series (1834), 4, 251. Cited in Timothy L. Alborn, 'Negotiating Notation: Chemical Symbols and British Society, 1831-1835', Annals of Science (1989), 46, 437.
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I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall
I’ll never see a tree at all.
In 'Song of the Open Road', Happy Days (1933), 66.
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I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Trees and Other Poems (1914), 19.
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I value science—none can prize it more,
It gives ten thousand motives to adore;
Be it religious, as it ought to be,
The heart humbles, and it bows the knee.
The Microcosm and Other Poems (1880), 21.

I venture to assert that the feelings one has when the beautiful symbolism of the infinitesimal calculus first gets a meaning, or when the delicate analysis of Fourier has been mastered, or while one follows Clerk Maxwell or Thomson into the strange world of electricity, now growing so rapidly in form and being, or can almost feel with Stokes the pulsations of light that gives nature to our eyes, or track with Clausius the courses of molecules we can measure, even if we know with certainty that we can never see them I venture to assert that these feelings are altogether comparable to those aroused in us by an exquisite poem or a lofty thought.
In paper (May 1891) read before Bath Branch of the Teachers’ Guild, published in The Practical Teacher (July 1891), reprinted as 'Geometry', in Frederic Spencer, Chapters on the Aims and Practice of Teaching (1897), 194.
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If the radiance of a thousand suns
Were to burst at once into the sky
That would be like the splendour of the Mighty One …
I am become Death,
The shatterer of worlds.
His thoughts in reaction to viewing the fireball of the Trinity test of the first atomic bomb at Alamogordo, N.M. (16 Jul 1945). Fragments from Sacred Hindu Epic, Bhagavad-Gita. Quoted in A. Berry (ed.), The Book of Scientific Anecdotes (1989), 175.
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It was Courtois discover'd Iodine
(In the commencement of this century),
Which, with its sisters, bromine and chlorine,
Enjoys a common parentage - the sea;
Although sometimes 'tis found, with other things,
In minerals and many saline springs.

But yet the quantity is so minute
In the great ocean, that a chemist might,
With sensibilities the most acute,
Have never brought this element to light,
Had he not thought it were as well to try
Where ocean's treasures concentrated lie.

And Courtois found that several plants marine,
Sponges, et cetera, exercise the art
Of drawing from the sea its iodine
In quantities sufficient to impart
Its properties; and he devised a plan
Of bringing it before us - clever man!
Discursive Chemical Notes in Rhyme (1876) by the Author of the Chemical Review, a B.
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It is probably no exaggeration to suppose that in order to improve such an organ as the eye at all, it must be improved in ten different ways at once. And the improbability of any complex organ being produced and brought to perfection in any such way is an improbability of the same kind and degree as that of producing a poem or a mathematical demonstration by throwing letters at random on a table.
[Expressing his reservations about Darwin's proposed evolution of the eye by natural selection.]
Opening address to the Belfast Natural History Society, as given in the 'Belfast Northern Whig,' (19 Nov 1866). As cited by Charles Darwin in The Variation of Animals & Plants Under Domestication (1868), 222.
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Many peptic ulcers and psychosomatic ailments are poems struggling to be born.
As quoted in Paul L. Montgomery, 'Psychopoetry: A New Way of Reaching the Disturbed', New York Times (17 Apr 1971), 31.
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My colleagues in elementary particle theory in many lands [and I] are driven by the usual insatiable curiosity of the scientist, and our work is a delightful game. I am frequently astonished that it so often results in correct predictions of experimental results. How can it be that writing down a few simple and elegant formulae, like short poems governed by strict rules such as those of the sonnet or the waka, can predict universal regularities of Nature?
Nobel Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1969), in Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.),Les Prix Nobel en 1969 (1970).
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My final word, before I'm done,
Is “Cancer can be rather fun”—
Provided one confronts the tumour
with a sufficient sense of humour.
I know that cancer often kills,
But so do cars and sleeping pills;
And it can hurt till one sweats,
So can bad teeth and unpaid debts.
A spot of laughter, I am sure,
Often accelerates one's cure;
So let us patients do our bit
To help the surgeons make us fit.
'Cancer's a Funny Thing'. Quoted in Richard Dawkins, The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing (2008), 175-6.
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My soul is an entangled knot,
Upon a liquid vortex wrought
By Intellect in the Unseen residing,
And thine doth like a convict sit,
With marline-spike untwisting it,
Only to find its knottiness abiding;
Since all the tools for its untying
In four-dimensional space are lying,
Wherein they fancy intersperses
Long avenues of universes,
While Klein and Clifford fill the void
With one finite, unbounded homoloid,
And think the Infinite is now at last destroyed. (1878)
A parody of Shelley as 'A Paradoxical Ode', quoted in Lewis Campbell and William Garnett, The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (1882), 649-650.
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Nature composes some of her loveliest poems for the microscope and the telescope.
In Where the Wasteland Ends (1972), 330.
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Never fear big long words.
Big long words name little things.
All big things have little names.
Such as life and death, peace and war.
Or dawn, day, night, hope, love, home.
Learn to use little words in a big way.
It is hard to do,
But they say what you mean.
When you don't know what you mean, use big words.
That often fools little people.
Quoted in Saturday Review (1962), 45, No. 2. It was written (1936) for his son, as advice for young copy writers. - 1995
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Nor ever yet
The melting rainbow's vernal-tinctur'd hues
To me have shone so pleasing, as when first
the hand of science pointed out the path
In which the sun-beams gleaming from the west
Fall on the watery cloud.
The Pleasures of Imagination (1818), 50.

Not greatly moved with awe am I
To learn that we may spy
Five thousand firmaments beyond our own.
The best that's known
Of the heavenly bodies does them credit small.
View'd close, the Moon's fair ball
Is of ill objects worst,
A corpse in Night's highway, naked, fire-scarr'd, accurst;
And now they tell
That the Sun is plainly seen to boil and burst
Too horribly for hell.
So, judging from these two,
As we must do,
The Universe, outside our living Earth,
Was all conceiv'd in the Creator's mirth,
Forecasting at the time Man's spirit deep,
To make dirt cheap.
Put by the Telescope!
Better without it man may see,
Stretch'd awful in the hush'd midnight,
The ghost of his eternity.
'The Two Deserts' (1880-85). Poems, Introduction Basil Champneys (1906), 302.
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Nothing is more symptomatic of the enervation, of the decompression of the Western imagination, than our incapacity to respond to the landings on the Moon. Not a single great poem, picture, metaphor has come of this breathtaking act, of Prometheus’ rescue of Icarus or of Phaeton in flight towards the stars.
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O star-eyed Science, hast thou wander’d there,
To waft us home the message of despair?
'Pleasures of Hope', Part 2. In Samuel Rogers, Thomas Campbell, et al, The Poetical Works of Rogers, Campbell, J. Montgomery, Lamb, and Kirke White (1830), 121.

Oh, most magnificent and noble Nature!
Have I not worshipped thee with such a love
As never mortal man before displayed?
Adored thee in thy majesty of visible creation,
And searched into thy hidden and mysterious ways
As Poet, as Philosopher, as Sage?
A late fragment, probably written when he knew he was dying, in Fragmentary Remains (1858), 14.
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One day at least in every week,
The sects of every kind
Their doctrines here are sure to seek,
And just as sure to find.
From Matter to Spirit, Preface.

One might talk about the sanity of the atom
the sanity of space
the sanity of the electron
the sanity of water—
For it is all alive
and has something comparable to that which we call sanity in ourselves.
The only oneness is the oneness of sanity.
'The Sane Universe', David Herbert Lawrence, The Works of D.H. Lawrence (1994), 428.
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ORGANIC LIFE beneath the shoreless waves
Was born and nurs'd in Ocean's pearly caves;
First, forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom,
New powers acquire, and larger limbs assume;
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And breathing realms of fin, and feet, and wing.
Thus the tall Oak, the giant of the wood,
Which bears Britannia's thunders on the flood;
The Whale, unmeasured monster of the main,
The lordly Lion, monarch of the plain,
The Eagle soaring in the realms of air,
Whose eye undazzled drinks the solar glare,
Imperious man, who rules the bestial crowd,
Of language, reason, and reflection proud,
With brow erect, who scorns this earthy sod,
And styles himself the image of his God;
Arose from rudiments of form and sense,
An embryon point, or microscopic ens!
The Temple of Nature (1803), canto 1, lines 295-314, pages 26-8.
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Poore soule, in this thy flesh what do'st thou know?
Thou know'st thy selfe so little, as thou know'st not.
How thou did'st die, nor how thou wast begot.
Thou neither know'st how thou at first camest in,
Nor how thou took'st the poyson of mans sin.
Nor dost thou, (though thou know'st, that thou art so)
By what way thou art made immortall, know.
Thou art too narrow, wretch, to comprehend
Even thy selfe; yea though thou wouldst but bend
To know thy body. Have not all soules thought
For many ages, that our body'is wrought
Of Ayre, and Fire, and other Elements?
And now they thinke of new ingredients,
And one soule thinkes one, and another way
Another thinkes, and 'tis an even lay.
Knowst thou but how the stone doth enter in
The bladder's Cave, and never breake the skin?
Knowst thou how blood, which to the hart doth flow,
Doth from one ventricle to th'other go?
And for the putrid stuffe, which thou dost spit,
Knowst thou how thy lungs have attracted it?
There are no passages, so that there is
(For aught thou knowst) piercing of substances.
And of those many opinions which men raise
Of Nailes and Haires, dost thou know which to praise?
What hope have we to know our selves, when wee
Know not the least things, which for our use bee?
Of the Progresse of the Soule. The Second Anniversarie, I. 254-280. The Works of John Donne (Wordsworth edition 1994), 196-7.
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Professor Dewar
Is a better man than you are,
None of you asses
Can condense gases.
E. C. Bentley, Biography for Beginners (1905). Collected in Complete Clerihews (2008), 39.

Quiet this metal!
Let the manes put off their terror, let
them put off their aqueous bodies with fire.
Let them assume the milk-white bodies of agate.
Let them draw together the bones of the metal.
'The Alchemist: Chant for the Transmutation of Metal'. In T. S. Eliot (ed.), Ezra Pound: Selected Poems (1928), 61-2.
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Science, illuminating ray!
Fair mental beam, extend thy sway, And shine from pole to pole!
From thy accumulated store,
O'er every mind thy riches pour, Excite from low desires to soar, And dignify the soul.
'Botany', I. From Poems on Conchology and Botany (1831), 176.
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So erst the Sage [Pythagoras] with scientific truth
In Grecian temples taught the attentive youth;
With ceaseless change how restless atoms pass
From life to life, a transmigrating mass;
How the same organs, which to-day compose
The poisonous henbane, or the fragrant rose,
May with to-morrow's sun new forms compile,
Frown in the Hero, in the Beauty smile.
Whence drew the enlighten'd Sage the moral plan,
That man should ever be the friend of man;
Should eye with tenderness all living forms,
His brother-emmets, and his sister-worms.
The Temple of Nature (1803), canto 4, lines 417-28, page 163.
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Soon shall thy arm, UNCONQUER’D STEAM! afar
Drag the slow barge, or drive the rapid car;
Or on wide-waving wings expanded bear
The flying-chariot through the fields of air.
From 'Botanic Garden' (1781), part 1, canto 1, lines 289-92. The Botanic Garden, with Philosophical Notes (4th Ed., 1799). At the time Erasmus Darwin penned his poem, he would have been aware of a limited history of steam power: Edward Someset, 2nd Marquis of Worcester steam pump (1663), Thomas Savery's steam pump (1698), Thomas Newcomen atmospheric engine (1712), Matthew Boulton and James Watt first commercial steam engine (1776). Watt did not build his first 'double acting' engine, which enabled using a flywheel, until 1783 (two years after Darwin's poem). It was also after Darwin's poem was written that the first steamboat, using paddles, the Pyroscaphe steamed up a French river on 15 Jul 1783. Darwin's predicted future for the steam engine car did not come to pass until Richard Trevithick tested his Camborne road engine (1801). The Wrights' first airplane flight came a century later, in 1903.
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Strictly speaking, the idea of a scientific poem is probably as nonsensical as that of a poetic science.
Aphorism 61 from Selected Aphorisms from the Lyceum (1797-1800). In Friedrich Schlegel, translated by Ernst Behler and Roman Struc, Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms (trans. 1968), 155.
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Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up these barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.
In poem, 'The Tables Turned: An Evening Scene, on the Same Subject', Lyrical Ballads: With a Few Other Poems (1798), 188.
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Take two aspirin and one poem.
As quoted in 'In Memoriam—Jack J. Leedy (1921–2004)', Journal of Poetry Therapy (2004), 17, No. 4, 231.
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That small word “Force,” they make a barber's block,
Ready to put on
Meanings most strange and various, fit to shock
Pupils of Newton....
The phrases of last century in this
Linger to play tricks—
Vis viva and Vis Mortua and Vis Acceleratrix:
Those long-nebbed words that to our text books still
Cling by their titles,
And from them creep, as entozoa will,
Into our vitals.
But see! Tait writes in lucid symbols clear
One small equation;
And Force becomes of Energy a mere
'Report on Tait's Lecture on Force:— B.A., 1876', reproduced in Bruce Clarke, Energy Forms: Allegory and Science in the Era of Classical Thermodynamics (2001), 19. Maxwell's verse was inspired by a paper delivered at the British Association (B.A.. He was satirizing a “considerable cofusion of nomenclature” at the time, and supported his friend Tait's desire to establish a redefinition of energy on a thermnodynamic basis.
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The Astronomer’s Drinking Song
Astronomers! What can avail
Those who calumniate us;
Experiment can never fail
With such an apparatus…
A Budget of Paradoxes
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The Builder of this Universe was wise,
He plann’d all souls, all systems, planets, particles:
The Plan He shap'd all Worlds and Æons by,
Was—Heavens!—was thy small Nine-and-thirty Articles!
In 'Practical-Devotional', Past and Present, Book 2, Chap 15, collected in On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (1840), 101. Note: “Nine-and-thirty Articles” of the Church of England.
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The centipede was happy quite, until a toad in fun
Said, 'Pray which leg goes after which?'
That work'd her mind to such a pitch,
She lay distracted in a ditch, considering how to run.
Pinafore Poems in Cassell's Weekly (1871). In Steven Vogel and Rosemary Anne Calvert Life's Devices (1988), 254.
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The farthest Thunder that I heard
Was nearer than the Sky
And rumbles still, though torrid Noons
Have lain their missiles by-
The Lightning that preceded it
Struck no one but myself-
But I would not exchange the Bolt
For all the rest of Life-
Indebtedness to Oxygen
The Happy may repay,
But not the obligation
To Electricity-
It founds the Homes and decks the Days
And every clamor bright
Is but the gleam concomitant
Of that waylaying Light-
The Thought is quiet as a Flake-
A Crash without a Sound,
How Life’s reverberation
Is Explanation found-—
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The history of the cosmos
is the history of the struggle of becoming.
When the dim flux of unformed life
struggled, convulsed back and forth upon itself,
and broke at last into light and dark
came into existence as light,
came into existence as cold shadow
then every atom of the cosmos trembled with delight.
God is Born', David Herbert Lawrence, The Works of D.H. Lawrence (1994), 571.
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The longest tyranny that ever sway’d
Was that wherein our ancestors betray’d
Their free-born reason to the Stagirite [Aristotle],
And made his torch their universal light.
So truth, while only one suppli'd the state,
Grew scarce, and dear, and yet sophisticate.
'To my Honour’d Friend, Dr Charleton' (1663), lines 1-6, in James Kinsley (ed.), The Poems and Fables of John Dryden (1962), 32.
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The Reproductions of the living Ens
From sires to sons, unknown to sex, commence...
Unknown to sex the pregnant oyster swells,
And coral-insects build their radiate shells...
Birth after birth the line unchanging runs,
And fathers live transmitted in their sons;
Each passing year beholds the unvarying kinds,
The same their manners, and the same their minds.
The Temple of Nature (1803), canto 2, lines 63-4, 89-90, 107-10, pages 48-52.
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The stars hang bright above,
Silent, as if they watch’d the sleeping earth.
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The words of poems are the tuft and final applause of science.
In poem, 'The Indications', Leaves of Grass (1867), 314.
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Then we upon our globe’s last verge shall go,
And view the ocean leaning on the sky:
From thence our rolling Neighbours we shall know,
And on the Lunar world securely pry.
'Annus Mirabilis The year of Wonders, 1666' (1667), lines 653-6, in James Kinsley (ed.), The Poems and Fables of John Dryden (1962), 81.
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This day relenting God
Hath placed within my hand
A wondrous thing; and God
Be praised. At His command,
Seeking His secret deeds
With tears and toiling breath,
I find thy cunning seeds,
O million-murdering Death.
I know this little thing
A myriad men will save.
O Death, where is thy sting?
Thy victory, O Grave?
Poem he wrote following the discovery that the malaria parasite was carried by the amopheline mosquito.
From a privately printed book of verse, anonymously published, by R.R., In Exile (1906). As cited by S. Weir Mitchell, in 'The Literary Side of a Physician’s Life—Ronald Ross as a Poet', Journal of the American Medical Association (7 Sep 1907), 49, No. 10, 853. In his book, Ronald Ross stated “These verses were written in India between the years 1891 and 1899, as a means of relief after the daily labors of a long, scientific research.”
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To our senses, the elements are four
and have ever been, and will ever be
for they are the elements of life, of poetry, and of perception,
the four Great Ones, the Four Roots, the First Four
of Fire and the Wet, Earth and the wide Air of the World.
To find the other many elements, you must go to the laboratory
and hunt them down.
But the four we have always with us, they are our world.
Or rather, they have us with them.
'The Four', David Herbert Lawrence, The Works of D.H. Lawrence (1994), 593.
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Twinkle, twinkle, quasi-star
Biggest puzzle from afar
How unlike the other ones
Brighter than a billion suns
Twinkle, twinkle, quasi-star
How I wonder what you are.
In Matter, Earth, and Sky (1965), 568. Quoted earlier in Newsweek (25 May 1964), 63, Pt 2, 63.
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Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one,
but there is also a third thing, that makes it water
and nobody knows what it is.
The atom locks up two energies
but it is a third thing present which makes it an atom.
'The Third Thing', David Herbert Lawrence, The Works of D.H. Lawrence (1994), 428.
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We are all writing God’s poem.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 8
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When I went to the scientific doctor
I realised what a lust there was in him to wreak his so-called science on me
and reduce me to the level of a thing.
So I said: Good-morning! and left him.
'Scientific Doctor', David Herbert Lawrence, The Works of D.H. Lawrence (1994), 513.
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When science starts to be interpretive
it is more unscientific even than mysticism.
'Self-Protection', David Herbert Lawrence, The Works of D.H. Lawrence (1994), 436.
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Wherever modern Science has exploded a superstitious fable or even a picturesque error, she has replaced it with a grander and even more poetical truth.
'The Study of Nature', The Christian Examiner, 1860, 67, 40.
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While bright-eyed Science watches round.
'Ode For Music'. The Works of Thomas Gray (1825), 69.

Who never found what good from science grew,
Save the grand truth, that one and one make two.
From poem delivered to the Harvard Chapter, Phi Beta Kappa Society, Cambridge, Mass. (27 Aug 1829). Curiosity: a Poem (1829), 16.
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Who, of men, can tell
That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell
To melting pulp, that fish would have bright mail,
The earth its dower of river, wood, and vale,
The meadows runnels, runnels pebble-stones,
The seed its harvest, or the lute its tones,
Tones ravishment, or ravishment its sweet,
If human souls did never kiss and greet?
Endymion (1818), bk. 1, l. 835-842. In John Barnard (ed.), John Keats. The Complete Poems (1973), 129.
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[First use of the term science fiction:] We hope it will not be long before we may have other works of Science-Fiction [like Richard Henry Horne's The Poor Artist], as we believe such books likely to fulfil a good purpose, and create an interest, where, unhappily, science alone might fail.
[Thomas] Campbell says, that “Fiction in Poetry is not the reverse of truth, but her soft and enchanting resemblance.” Now this applies especially to Science-Fiction, in which the revealed truths of Science may be given interwoven with a pleasing story which may itself be poetical and true—thus circulating a knowledge of Poetry of Science, clothed in a garb of the Poetry of life.
In A Little Earnest Book Upon a Great Old Subject (1851), 137.
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[Referring to Fourier’s mathematical theory of the conduction of heat] … Fourier's great mathematical poem…
In W. Thomson and P. G. Tait, Treatise on Natural Philosophy. Reprinted as Principles of Mechanics and Dynamics (2000), 470.
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[The Book of Genesis is] [p]rofoundly interesting and indeed pathetic to me are those attempts of the opening mind of man to appease its hunger for a Cause. But the Book of Genesis has no voice in scientific questions. It is a poem, not a scientific treatise. In the former aspect it is for ever beautiful; in the latter it has been, and it will continue to be, purely obstructive and hurtful.'
In 'Professor Virchow and Evolution', Fragments of Science (1879), Vol. 2, 377. Tyndall is quoting himself from “four years ago”&mdashthus c.1875.
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[T]here shall be love between the poet and the man of demonstrable science. In the beauty of poems are the tuft and final applause of science.
In Walt Whitman and William Michael Rossetti (ed.), 'Preface to the First Edition of Leaves of Grass', Poems By Walt Whitman (1868), 46.
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~~[Misquote]~~ Fourier is a mathematical poem.
Seen in various books and on the web. This seems to be a misquote based on Kelvin’s reference to Fourier’s mathematical theory of the conduction of heat as “Fourier's great mathematical poem.” More information on the latter quote on the Lord Kelvin Quotes page on this website.
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…where the electron behaves and misbehaves as it will,
where the forces tie themselves up into knots of atoms
and come united…
'Give Us Gods', David Herbert Lawrence, The Works of D.H. Lawrence (1994), 354.
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’Twas thus by the glare of false science betray’d,
That leads to be bewilder, and dazzles the blind.
'The Hermit'. In James Beattie and Alexander Dyce, The Poetical Works of James Beattie (1866), Vol. 2, 95.

“Arcturus” is his other name-
I’d rather call him “Star.”
It’s very mean of Science
To go and interfere!
'Arcturus' (c.1859). The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. Thomas H. Johnson (1970), 36.
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“The Ancient Mariner” — This poem would not have taken so well if it had been called “The Old Sailor,” so that Wardour Street has its uses.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 229. Note: “Wardour Street prose” implies the use of near-obsolete words for effect, and derives from former times when the street was known for its many antique shops.
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“Wu Li” was more than poetic. It was the best definition of physics that the conference would produce. It caught that certain something, that living quality that we were seeking to express in a book, that thing without which physics becomes sterile. “Wu” can mean either “matter” or “energy.” “Li” is a richly poetic word. It means “universal order” or “universal law.” It also means “organic patterns.” The grain in a panel of wood is Li. The organic pattern on the surface of a leaf is also Li, and so is the texture of a rose petal. In short, Wu Li, the Chinese word for physics, means “patterns of organic energy” (“matter/ energy” [Wu] + “universal order/organic patterns” [Li]). This is remarkable since it reflects a world view which the founders of western science (Galileo and Newton) simply did not comprehend, but toward which virtually every physical theory of import in the twentieth century is pointing!
In The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics (1979), 5.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 60 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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