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Poetry Quotes (87 quotes)

Copernicus, who rightly did condemn
This eldest systeme, form'd a wiser scheme;
In which he leaves the Sun at Rest, and rolls
The Orb Terrestial on its proper Poles;
Which makes the Night and Day by this Career,
And by its slow and crooked Course the Year.
The famous Dane, who oft the Modern guides,
To Earth and Sun their Provinces divides:
The Earth's Rotation makes the Night and Day,
The Sun revolving through th'Eccliptic Way
Effects the various seasons of the Year,
Which in their Turn for happy Ends appear.
This Scheme or that, which pleases best, embrace,
Still we the Fountain of their Motion trace.
Kepler asserts these Wonders may be done
By the Magnetic Vertue of the Sun,
Which he, to gain his End, thinks fit to place
Full in the Center of that mighty Space,
Which does the Spheres, where Planets roll, include,
And leaves him with Attractive Force endu'd.
The Sun, thus seated, by Mechanic Laws,
The Earth, and every distant Planet draws;
By which Attraction all the Planets found
Within his reach, are turn'd in Ether round.
Creation: A Philosopical Poem in Seven Books (1712), book 2, l. 430-53, p.78-9.
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Nature is curious, and such worke may make,
That our dull sense can never finde, but scape.
For Creatures, small as Atomes, may be there,
If every Atome a Creatures Figure beare.
If foure Atomes a World can make, then see
What severall Worlds might in an Eare--ring bee:
For Millions of these Atomes may bee in
The Head of one Small, little, Single Pin.
And if thus Small, then Ladies may well weare
A World of Worlds, as Pendents in each Eare.
From 'Of Many Worlds in this World', in Poems and Fancies (1653), 44-5.
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Steckt keine Poesie in der Lokomotive, die brausend durch die Nacht zieht und über die zitternde Erde hintobt, als wollte sie Raum und Zeit zermalmen, in dem hastigen, aber wohl geregelten Zucken und Zerren ihrer gewaltigen Glieder, in dem stieren, nur auf ein Ziel losstürmenden Blick ihrer roten Augen, in dem emsigen, willenlosen Gefolge der Wagen, die kreischend und klappernd, aber mit unfehlbarer Sicherheit dem verkörperten Willen aus Eisen und Stahl folge leisten?
Is there no poetry in the locomotive roaring through the night and charging over the quivering earth as if it wanted to crush time and space? Is there no poetry in the hasty but regular jerking and tugging of its powerful limbs, in the stare of its red eyes that never lose sight of their goal? Is there no poetry in the bustling, will-less retinue of cars that follow, screeching and clattering with unmistakable surety, the steel and iron embodiment of will?
Max Eyth
From 'Poesie und Technik' (1904) (Poetry and Technology), in Schweizerische Techniker-Zeitung (1907), Vol 4, 306, as translated in Paul A. Youngman, Black Devil and Iron Angel: The Railway in Nineteenth-Century German Realism (2005), 128.
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Where faith commences, science ends. Both these arts of the human mind must be strictly kept apart from each other. Faith has its origin in the poetic imagination; knowledge, on the other hand, originates in the reasoning intelligence of man. Science has to pluck the blessed fruits from the tree of knowledge, unconcerned whether these conquests trench upon the poetical imaginings of faith or not.
In Ernst Haeckel and E. Ray Lankester (trans.), The History of Creation (1880), Vol. 1, 9.
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[About describing atomic models in the language of classical physics:] We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.
As quoted by Werner Heisenberg, as translated by Arnold J. Pomerans, in Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations (1971), 41. The words are not verbatim, but as later recollected by Werner Heisenberg describing his early encounter with Bohr in 1920.
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A man said to the universe:
'Sir, I exist!'
'However,' replied the universe,
'The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.'
'A Man Said to the Universe', in Poems by Stephen Crane (1972), 139.
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Alas! That partial Science should approve
The sly rectangle’s too licentious love!
From three bright Nymphs the wily wizard burns;-
Three bright-ey’d Nymphs requite his flame by turns.
Strange force of magic skill! Combined of yore.
'The Loves of the Triangles. A Mathematical and Philosophical Poem', in The Anti-Jacobean or Weekly Examiner, Monday 16 April 1798, 182. [Written by George Canning, Hookham Frere, and George Ellis].
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And make us as Newton was, who in his garden watching
The apple falling towards England, became aware
Between himself and her of an eternal tie.
'Prologue' in Look Stranger! (1936), 11.
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As for types like my own, obscurely motivated by the conviction that our existence was worthless if we didn’t make a turning point of it, we were assigned to the humanities, to poetry, philosophy, painting—the nursery games of humankind, which had to be left behind when the age of science began. The humanities would be called upon to choose a wallpaper for the crypt, as the end drew near.
From More Die of Heartbreak (1987, 1997), 246-247.
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Astronomy, that micography of heaven, is the most magnificent of the sciences. ... Astronomy has its clear side and its luminous side; on its clear side it is tinctured with algebra, on its luminous side with poetry.
In Victor Hugo and Lorenzo O'Rourke (trans.) Victor Hugo's Intellectual Autobiography: (Postscriptum de ma vie) (1907), 237-8.
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Because science flourishes, must poesy decline? The complaint serves but to betray the weakness of the class who urge it. True, in an age like the present,—considerably more scientific than poetical,—science substitutes for the smaller poetry of fiction, the great poetry of truth.
Lecture Second, collected in Popular Geology: A Series of Lectures Read Before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh, with Descriptive Sketches from a Geologist's Portfolio (1859), 123.
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Chemistry has the same quickening and suggestive influence upon the algebraist as a visit to the Royal Academy, or the old masters may be supposed to have on a Browning or a Tennyson. Indeed it seems to me that an exact homology exists between painting and poetry on the one hand and modern chemistry and modern algebra on the other. In poetry and algebra we have the pure idea elaborated and expressed through the vehicle of language, in painting and chemistry the idea enveloped in matter, depending in part on manual processes and the resources of art for its due manifestation.
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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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Coy Nature, (which remain'd, though aged grown,
A beauteous virgin still, enjoy'd by none,
Nor seen unveil'd by anyone),
When Harvey's violent passion she did see,
Began to tremble and to flee;
Took sanctuary, like Daphne, in a tree:
There Daphne’s Lover stopped, and thought it much
The very leaves of her to touch:
But Harvey, our Apollo, stopp’d not so;
Into the Bark and Root he after her did go!
'Ode Upon Dr Harvey' (1663). In The British Poets: Including Translations in One Hundred Volumes (1822), Vol. 13, 245.
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Energy is Eternal Delight.
'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell' (1790). In W. H. Stevenson (ed.), The Poems of William Blake (1971), 106.
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For a scientist must indeed be freely imaginative and yet skeptical, creative and yet a critic. There is a sense in which he must be free, but another in which his thought must be very preceisely regimented; there is poetry in science, but also a lot of bookkeeping.
The Strange Case of the Spotted Mice and Other Classic Essays on Science (1996), 63.
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Hubble touches people. When you're looking that far out, you're giving people their place in the universe, it touches people. Science is often visual, so it doesn't need translation. It's like poetry, it touches you.
Interview (22 May 1997). On Academy of Achievement website.
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I do not see how a man can work on the frontiers of physics and write poetry at the same time. They are in opposition. In science you want to say something that nobody knew before, in words which everyone can understand. In poetry you are bound to say ... something that everyone knows already in words that nobody can understand.
Commenting to him about the poetry J. Robert Oppenheimer wrote.
Quoted in Steven George Krantz, Mathematical Apocrypha Redux: More Stories and Anecdotes of Mathematicians (2005), 169
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I should not think of devoting less than 20 years to an Epic Poem. Ten to collect materials and warm my mind with universal science. I would be a tolerable Mathematician, I would thoroughly know Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Optics, and Astronomy, Botany, Metallurgy, Fossilism, Chemistry, Geology, Anatomy, Medicine—then the mind of man—then the minds of men—in all Travels, Voyages and Histories. So I would spend ten years—the next five to the composition of the poem—and the five last to the correction of it. So I would write haply not unhearing of the divine and rightly-whispering Voice, which speaks to mighty minds of predestinated Garlands, starry and unwithering.
Letter to Joseph Cottle, early April 1797. In Earl Leslie Griggs (ed.), The Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1956), Vol. 1, 320-1.

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 turn my eyes to the schools & universities of Europe
And there behold the loom of Locke whose woof rages dire,
Washed by the water-wheels of Newton. Black the cloth
In heavy wreaths folds over every nation; cruel works
Of many wheels I view, wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannic
Moving by compulsion each other: not as those in Eden, which
Wheel within wheel in freedom revolve, in harmony & peace.
'Jerusalem, The Emanation of the Giant Albion' (1804-20), First Chapter, Pl.15, lines 14-20. In W. H. Stevenson (ed.), The Poems of William Blake (1971), 654-55.
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I would liken science and poetry in their natural independence to those binary stars, often different in colour, which Herschel's telescope discovered to revolve round each other. 'There is one light of the sun,' says St. Paul, 'and another of the moon, and another of the stars: star differeth from star in glory.' It is so here. That star or sun, for it is both, with its cold, clear, white light, is SCIENCE: that other, with its gorgeous and ever-shifting hues and magnificent blaze, is POETRY. They revolve lovingly round each other in orbits of their own, pouring forth and drinking in the rays which they exchange; and they both also move round and shine towards that centre from which they came, even the throne of Him who is the Source of all truth and the Cause of all beauty.
'The alleged Antagonism between poetry and Chemistry.' In Jesse Aitken Wilson, Memoirs of George Wilson. Quoted in Natural History Society of Montreal, 'Reviews and Notices of Books,' The Canadian Naturalist and Geologist (1861) Vol. 6, 393.
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If matter is not eternal, its first emergence into being is a miracle beside which all others dwindle into absolute insignificance. But, as has often been pointed out, the process is unthinkable; the sudden apocalypse of a material world out of blank nonentity cannot be imagined; its emergence into order out of chaos when “without form and void” of life, is merely a poetic rendering of the doctrine of its slow evolution.
In Nineteenth Century (Sep c.1879?). Quoted in John Tyndall, 'Professor Virchow and Evolution', Fragments of Science (1879), Vol. 2, 377.
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If you want to penetrate into the heart of physics, then let yourself be initiated into the mysteries of poetry.
Friedrich Schlegel's Lucinde and the Fragments, trans. Peter Firchow (1971), 250.
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In a notable family called Stein
There were Gertrude, and Ep, and then Ein.
Gert's writing was hazy,
Ep's statues were crazy,
And nobody understood Ein.
Out on a Limerick (1961), 76.
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In addition to instructing them in the holy Scriptures, they also taught their pupils poetry, astronomy, and the calculation of the church calendar.
Referring to the teaching methods of Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Hadrian, abbot of Canterbury (A.D. 669).
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In early times, medicine was an art, which took its place at the side of poetry and painting; to-day, they try to make a science of it, placing it beside mathematics, astronomy, and physics.
In Armand Trousseau and John Rose Cormack (trans.), Lectures on Clinical Medicine: Delivered at the Hôtel-Dieu, Paris (1869), Vol. 2, 40.
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She whom we love, our Lady of Compassion,
Can never die, for Love forbids her death.
Love has bent down in his old kindly fashion,
And breathed upon her his immortal breath.
On wounded soldiers, in their anguish lying,
Her gentle spirit shall descend like rain.
Where the white flag with the red cross is flying,
There shall she dwell, the vanquisher of pain.
[In remembrance of 'The Lady of the Lamp' who died 13 Aug 1910.]
In New York Times (29 Aug 1910), 6. Collected in Summer of Love (1911), 72.
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In science, reason is the guide; in poetry, taste. The object of the one is truth, which is uniform and indivisible; the object of the other is beauty, which is multiform and varied.
Lacon: Many Things in Few Words (1820-22, 1866), 33.
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In the earliest ages science was poetry, as in the latter poetry has become science.
In literary essay, 'Witchcraft' (1868), collected in The Writings of James Russell Lowell in Prose and Poetry (1870, 1898), Vol. 2, 359.
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It is the very strangeness of nature that makes science engrossing. That ought to be at the center of science teaching. There are more than seven-times-seven types of ambiguity in science, awaiting analysis. The poetry of Wallace Stevens is crystal-clear alongside the genetic code.
In Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony(1984), 209.
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Language is the archives of history… . Language is fossil poetry.
From 'The Poet', Essays: Second Series, Essays & Lectures (1983), 457.
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Life is the most important thing about the world, the most important thing about life is evolution. Thus, by consciously seeking what is most meaningful, I moved from poetry to mineralogy to paleontology to evolution.
This View of Life: the World of an Evolutionist (1964), 27-28.
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Mathematics is a form of poetry which transcends poetry in that it proclaims a truth; a form of reasoning which transcends reasoning in that it wants to bring about the truth it proclaims; a form of action, of ritual behavior, which does not find fulfilment in the act but must proclaim and elaborate a poetic form of truth.
'Why Mathematics Grows', Journal of the History of Ideas (Jan-Mar 1965), 26, No. 1, 3. In Salomon Bochner and Robert Clifford Gunning (ed.) Collected Papers of Salomon Bochner (1992), Vol. 4, 191. Footnoted as restating about Mathematics what was written about Myth by Henri Frankfort, et al., in The Intellectual Adventures of Ancient Man (1946), 8.
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Mathematics is, as it were, a sensuous logic, and relates to philosophy as do the arts, music, and plastic art to poetry.
Aphorism 365 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), 147.
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Mathematics may, like poetry or music, “promote and sustain a lofty habit of mind.”
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 116.
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May God us keep
From Single vision & Newton’s sleep!
Letter to Thomas Butt (22 Nov 1802). Collected in William Blake and Archibald George Blomefield Russell (ed.), The Letters of William Blake (1906), Vol. 1, 112.
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Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau!
Mock on, mock on: 'Tis all in vain!
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again.
And every sand becomes a gem
Reflected in the beams divine;
Blown back they blind the mocking eye,
But still in Israel's paths they shine.
The atoms of Democritus
And Newton's particles of light
Are sands upon the Red Sea shore,
Where Israel's tents do shine so bright.
Notebook Drafts (c. 1804). In W. H. Stevenson (ed.), The Poems of William Blake (1971), 481.
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Nature is a vast tablet, inscribed with signs, each of which has its own significancy, and becomes poetry in the mind when read; and geology is simply the key by which myriads of these signs, hitherto indecipherable, can be unlocked and perused, and thus a new province added to the poetical domain.
Lecture Third, collected in Popular Geology: A Series of Lectures Read Before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh, with Descriptive Sketches from a Geologist's Portfolio (1859), 131.
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Nobody, I suppose, could devote many years to the study of chemical kinetics without being deeply conscious of the fascination of time and change: this is something that goes outside science into poetry; but science, subject to the rigid necessity of always seeking closer approximations to the truth, itself contains many poetical elements.
From Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1956), collected in Nobel Lectures in Chemistry (1999), 474.
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Nothing could have been worse for the development of my mind than Dr. Butler's school, as it was strictly classical, nothing else being taught, except a little ancient geography and history. The school as a means of education to me was simply a blank. During my whole life I have been singularly incapable of mastering any language. Especial attention was paid to versemaking, and this I could never do well. I had many friends, and got together a good collection of old verses, which by patching together, sometimes aided by other boys, I could work into any subject.
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 8.
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Once early in the morning, at two or three in the morning, when the master was asleep, the books in the library began to quarrel with each other as to which was the king of the library. The dictionary contended quite angrily that he was the master of the library because without words there would be no communication at all. The book of science argued stridently that he was the master of the library for without science there would have been no printing press or any of the other wonders of the world. The book of poetry claimed that he was the king, the master of the library, because he gave surcease and calm to his master when he was troubled. The books of philosophy, the economic books, all put in their claims, and the clamor was great and the noise at its height when a small low voice was heard from an old brown book lying in the center of the table and the voice said, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” And all of the noise and the clamor in the library ceased, and there was a hush in the library, for all of the books knew who the real master of the library was.
'Ministers of Justice', address delivered to the Eighty-Second Annual Convention of the Tennessee Bar Association at Gatlinburg (5 Jun 1963). In Tennessee Law Review (Fall 1963), 31, No. 1, 19.
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Philosophy becomes poetry, and science imagination, in the enthusiasm of genius.
Literary Character of Men of Genius, Chap. 12. In In Jehiel Keeler Hoyt, The Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations (1996), 270.
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Poetry, mythology, and religion represent the world as man would like to have it, while science represents the world as he gradually comes to discover it.
In The Modern Temper: a Study and a Confession (1956), 6.
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Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas. One seeks the most general ideas of operation which will bring together in simple, logical and unified form the largest possible circle of formal relationships. In this effort toward logical beauty spiritual formulas are discovered necessary for the deeper penetration into the laws of nature.
In letter (1 May 1935), Letters to the Editor, 'The Late Emmy Noether: Professor Einstein Writes in Appreciation of a Fellow-Mathematician', New York Times (4 May 1935), 12.
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Quantum provides us with a striking illustration of the fact that though we can fully understand a connection … we can only speak of it in images and parables. We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.
In conversation during first meeting with Werner Heisenberg (summer 1920), as quoted in Werner Heisenberg and Arnold J. Pomerans (trans.), Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations (1971), 41. As cited in Philip Kuberski, The Forgèd Feature: Toward a Poetics of Uncertainty: New and Selected Essays (1995), 177-178.
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Science and art, or by the same token, poetry and prose differ from one another like a journey and an excursion. The purpose of the journey is its goal, the purpose of an excursion is the process.
Notebooks and Diaries (1838). In The Columbia World of Quotations (1996).
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Science boasts of the distance of its stars; of the terrific remoteness of the things of which it has to speak. But poetry and religion always insist upon the proximity, the almost menacing closeness of the things with which they are concerned. Always the Kingdom of Heaven is “At Hand.”
'A Glimpse of My Country', The Daily News. Collected in Tremendous Trifles (1920), 277.
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Science has succeeded to poetry, no less in the little walks of children than with men. Is there no possibility of averting this sore evil?
Letter to Coleridge (23 Oct 1802). In Edwin W. Marrs, Jr. (ed.), The Letters of Charles and Mary Anne Lamb (1976), Vol. 2, 81-2.
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Science is continually correcting what it has said. Fertile corrections... science is a ladder... poetry is a winged flight... An artistic masterpiece exists for all time... Dante does not efface Homer.
Quoted in Pierre Biquard, Frederic Joliot-Curie: The Man and his Theories (1961), trans. Geoffrey Strachan (1965), 168.
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Science is for those who learn; poetry for those who know.
In Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, Pt. 1, No. 71, translated from the third French edition by Isabel Florence Hapgood (1886), 43.
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Science is the labor and handicraft of the mind; poetry can only be considered its recreation.
As quoted in Nathaniel Holmes, The Authorship of Shakespeare (1867), 198. Footnoted as Int. Globe, Works (Mont.), XV. 150.
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Science sees signs: poetry, the thing signified.
Co-author with his brother Augustus William Hare Guesses At Truth, By Two Brothers: Second Edition: With Large Additions (1848), Second Series, 86. (The volume is introduced as “more than three fourths new.” The quote is identified as by Julius; Augustus had died in 1833.)
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Science was false by being unpoetical. It assumed to explain a reptile or a mollusk, and isolated it—which is hunting for life in graveyards. Reptile or mollusk or man or angel only exists in system, in relation.
In 'Letters and Social Aims: Poetry and Imagination', Prose works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1880), Vol. 3, 199.
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Shakespeare was pursuing two Methods at once; and besides the Psychological Method, he had also to attend to the Poetical. (Note) we beg pardon for the use of this insolent verbum: but it is one of which our Language stands in great need. We have no single term to express the Philosophy of the Human Mind.
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Sir Hiram Maxim is a genuine and typical example of the man of science, romantic, excitable, full of real but somewhat obvious poetry, a little hazy in logic and philosophy, but full of hearty enthusiasm and an honorable simplicity. He is, as he expresses it, “an old and trained engineer,” and is like all of the old and trained engineers I have happened to come across, a man who indemnifies himself for the superhuman or inhuman concentration required for physical science by a vague and dangerous romanticism about everything else.
In G.K. Chesterton, 'The Maxims of Maxim', Daily News (25 Feb 1905). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 87.
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Some drill and bore
The solid earth, and from the strata there
Extract a register, by which we learn,
That he who made it, and reveal'd its date
To Moses, was mistaken in its age.
The Task and Other Poems, Book III, The Garden (1785). In John D. Baird and Charles Ryskamp (eds.), The Poems of William Cowper (1995), Vol. 2, 1782-1785, 166-7.
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Sound travels farthest as music; the most telling form of truth is poetry.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 167.
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The design of a book is the pattern of reality controlled and shaped by the mind of the writer. This is completely understood about poetry or fiction, but it is too seldom realized about books of fact. And yet the impulse which drives a man to poetry will send a man into the tide pools and force him to report what he finds there. Why is an expedition to Tibet undertaken, or a sea bottom dredged? Why do men, sitting at the microscope, examine the calcareous plates of a sea cucumber and give the new species a name, and write about it possessively? It would be good to know the impulse truly, not to be confused by the “services to science” platitudes or the other little mazes into which we entice our minds so that they will not know what we are doing.
In John Steinbeck and Edward Flanders Ricketts, Introduction to Sea of Cortez: a Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research (1941), opening paragraph. John Steinbeck had an interest in marine science before he met Ricketts. This book is an account of their trip in the Gulf of California, once called the Sea of Cortez, and recording the marine life to be found there.
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The interpretations of science do not give us this intimate sense of objects as the interpretations of poetry give it; they appeal to a limited faculty, and not to the whole man. It is not Linnaeus or Cavendish or Cuvier who gives us the true sense of animals, or water, or plants, who seizes their secret for us, who makes us participate in their life; it is Shakspeare [sic] … Wordsworth … Keats … Chateaubriand … Senancour.
'Maurice de Guerin' Essays in Criticism (1865), in R.H. Super (ed.) The Complete Prose Works of Matthew Arnold: Lectures and Essays in Criticism (1962), Vol. 3, 13.

The more we know about this universe, the more mysterious it is. The old world that Job knew was marvelous enough, and his description of its wonders is among the noblest poetry of the race, but today the new science has opened to our eyes vistas of mystery that transcend in their inexplicable marvel anything the ancients ever dreamed.
In 'What Keeps Religion Going?', collected in Living Under Tension: Sermons On Christianity Today (1941), 53.
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The process of preparing programs for a digital computer is especially attractive, not only because it can be economically and scientifically rewarding, but also because it can be an aesthetic experience much like composing poetry or music.
The Art of Computer Programming (1968), Vol. 1, v.
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The story of scientific discovery has its own epic unity—a unity of purpose and endeavour—the single torch passing from hand to hand through the centuries; and the great moments of science when, after long labour, the pioneers saw their accumulated facts falling into a significant order—sometimes in the form of a law that revolutionised the whole world of thought—have an intense human interest, and belong essentially to the creative imagination of poetry.
In Prefactory Note, Watchers of the Sky (1922), v.
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The sublime can only be found in the great subjects. Poetry, history and philosophy all have the same object, and a very great object—Man and Nature. Philosophy describes and depicts Nature. Poetry paints and embellishes it. It also paints men, it aggrandizes them, it exaggerates them, it creates heroes and gods. History only depicts man, and paints him such as he is.
'Discours Prononcé a L' Académie française par M. De Buffon. Le Jour de sa Reception 25 Aout 1753'. Supplement a T.iv (1753), Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1777), 11. Trans. Phillip R. Sloan.
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The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than man, which is the touchstone of highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.
Essay, 'The Study of Mathematics' (1902), collected in Philosophical Essays (1910), 73-74. Also collected in Mysticism and Logic: And Other Essays (1919), 60.
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The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities. If they are not there, science cannot create them. If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.
Address upon receiving National Book Award at reception, Hotel Commodore, New York (27 Jan 1952). As cited in Linda Lear, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature (1997), 219. She was referring to her book being recognized, The Sea Around Us.
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There is beauty in discovery. There is mathematics in music, a kinship of science and poetry in the description of nature, and exquisite form in a molecule. Attempts to place different disciplines in different camps are revealed as artificial in the face of the unity of knowledge. All illiterate men are sustained by the philosopher, the historian, the political analyst, the economist, the scientist, the poet, the artisan, and the musician.
From address (1958), upon being appointed Chancellor of the University of California.
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There is no Professor of Wit at either University. Surely they might as reasonably have a professor of wit as of poetry.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 221.
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There is poetry in science and the cultivation of the imagination is an essential prerequisite to the successful investigation of nature.
Presidential address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (22 Aug 1850),The Papers of Joseph Henry, Vol. 8, 89. (Original text had typos: “immagination” and “prerequsite”.)
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This is, in truth, the first charm of chemistry, and the secret of the almost universal interest excited by its discoveries. The serious complacency which is afforded by the sense of truth, utility, permanence, and progression, blends with and ennobles the exhilarating surprise and the pleasurable sting of curiosity, which accompany the propounding and the solving of an Enigma... If in SHAKPEARE [sic] we find Nature idealized into Poetry, through the creative power of a profound yet observant meditation, so through the meditative observation of a DAVY, a WOOLLASTON [sic], or a HATCHETT; we find poetry, as if were, substantiated and realized in nature.
Essays on the Principle of Method, Essay VI (1818). In The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Friend (1969), Vol. 4, 1, Barbara E. Rooke (ed.), 471.
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To be always poring over the same Object, dulls the Intellects and tires the Mind, which is delighted and improved by a Variety: and therefore it ought, at times, to be relaxed from the more severe mathematical Contemplations, and to be employed upon something more light and agreeable, as Poetry, Physic, History, &c
In Dr. Boerhaave's Academical Lectures on the Theory of Physic (1746), Vol. 6, 264.
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To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
'The Pickering Manuscript' - Auguries of Innocence (c.1805). In W. H. Stevenson (ed.), The Poems of William Blake (1971), 585.
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True poetry is truer than science, because it is synthetic, and seizes at once what the combination of all the sciences is able, at most, to attain as a final result. (31 Oct 1852)
Amiel's Journal: The Journal Intime of Henri-Frédéric Amiel, trans. Humphry Ward (1893), 30.
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Two kinds of symbol must surely be distinguished. The algebraic symbol comes naked into the world of mathematics and is clothed with value by its masters. A poetic symbol—like the Rose, for Love, in Guillaume de Lorris—comes trailing clouds of glory from the real world, clouds whose shape and colour largely determine and explain its poetic use. In an equation, x and y will do as well as a and b; but the Romance of the Rose could not, without loss, be re-written as the Romance of the Onion, and if a man did not see why, we could only send him back to the real world to study roses, onions, and love, all of them still untouched by poetry, still raw.
C.S. Lewis and E.M. Tillyard, The Personal Heresy: A Controversy (1936), 97.
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War rages on the teeming earth;
The hot and sanguinary fight
Begins with each new creature's birth:
A dreadful war where might is right;
Where still the strongest slay and win,
Where weakness is the only sin.
The Ascent of Man (1889), 13.
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We have refused to recognize the creativity of youth. We don’t want our children to write poetry or go to the stars. We want them to go steady, get married and have four children.
As quoted in Frances Glennon, 'Student and Teacher of Human Ways', Life (14 Sep 1959), 147.
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What binds us to space-time is our rest mass, which prevents us from flying at the speed of light, when time stops and space loses meaning. In a world of light there are neither points nor moments of time; beings woven from light would live “nowhere” and “nowhen”; only poetry and mathematics are capable of speaking meaningfully about such things.
In 'Mathematics and Physics', collected in Mathematics as Metaphor: Selected Essays of Yuri I. Manin (2007), 130.
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Why do they [Americans] quarrel, why do they hate Negroes, Indians, even Germans, why do they not have science and poetry commensurate with themselves, why are there so many frauds and so much nonsense? I cannot soon give a solution to these questions ... It was clear that in the United States there was a development not of the best, but of the middle and worst sides of European civilization; the notorious general voting, the tendency to politics... all the same as in Europe. A new dawn is not to be seen on this side of the ocean.
The Oil Industry in the North American State of Pennsylvania and in the Caucasus (1877). Translated by H. M. Leicester, from the original in Russian, in 'Mendeleev's Visit to America', Journal of Chemical Education (1957), 34, 333.
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Without poetry our science will appear incomplete, and most of what now passes with us for religion and philosophy will be replaced by poetry.
Thomas Humphry Ward (ed.) with Introduction by Matthew Arnold, The English Poets: Chaucer to Donne (3rd. Ed., 1880), Vol. 1, xviii.
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Women have absolutely no sense of art, though they may have of poetry. They have no natural disposition for the sciences, though they may have for philosophy. They are by no means wanting in power of speculation and intuitive perception of the infinite; they lack only power of abstraction, which is far more easy to be learned.
From Selected Aphorisms from the Lyceum (1797-1800). As translated by Luis H. Gray in Kuno Francke and Isidore Singer (eds.), The German Classics: Masterpieces of German Literature Translated Into English (1913), Vol. 4, 177.
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You can be a thorough-going Neo-Darwinian without imagination, metaphysics, poetry, conscience, or decency. For “Natural Selection” has no moral significance: it deals with that part of evolution which has no purpose, no intelligence, and might more appropriately be called accidental selection, or better still, Unnatural Selection, since nothing is more unnatural than an accident. If it could be proved that the whole universe had been produced by such Selection, only fools and rascals could bear to live.
Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch (1921), lxi-lxii.
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You may take the noblest poetry in the world, and, if you stumble through it at snail's pace, it collapses from a work of art into a rubbish heap.
In The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929), 76.
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You may translate books of science exactly. ... The beauties of poetry cannot be preserved in any language except that in which it was originally written.
Quoted in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1826), Vol. 3, 29.
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You tell me of an invisible planetary system in which electrons gravitate around a nucleus. You explain this world to me with an image. I realize that you have been reduced to poetry. … So that science that was to teach me everything ends up in a hypothesis, that lucidity founders in metaphor, that uncertainty is resolved in a work of art.
In Albert Camus and Justin O’Brien (trans.), 'An Absurd Reasoning', The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays (1955), 15.
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[Certain students] suppose that because science has penetrated the structure of the atom it can solve all the problems of the universe. ... They are known in every ... college as the most insufferable, cocksure know-it-alls. If you want to talk to them about poetry, they are likely to reply that the "emotive response" to poetry is only a conditioned reflex .... If they go on to be professional scientists, their sharp corners are rubbed down, but they undergo no fundamental change. They most decidedly are not set apart from the others by their intellectual integrity and faith, and their patient humility in front of the facts of nature.... They are uneducated, in the fullest sense of the word, and they certainly are no advertisement for the claims of science teachers.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 18-19.
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[L]et us not overlook the further great fact, that not only does science underlie sculpture, painting, music, poetry, but that science is itself poetic. The current opinion that science and poetry are opposed is a delusion. ... On the contrary science opens up realms of poetry where to the unscientific all is a blank. Those engaged in scientific researches constantly show us that they realize not less vividly, but more vividly, than others, the poetry of their subjects. Whoever will dip into Hugh Miller's works on geology, or read Mr. Lewes's “Seaside Studies,” will perceive that science excites poetry rather than extinguishes it. And whoever will contemplate the life of Goethe will see that the poet and the man of science can co-exist in equal activity. Is it not, indeed, an absurd and almost a sacrilegious belief that the more a man studies Nature the less he reveres it? Think you that a drop of water, which to the vulgar eye is but a drop of water, loses anything in the eye of the physicist who knows that its elements are held together by a force which, if suddenly liberated, would produce a flash of lightning? Think you that what is carelessly looked upon by the uninitiated as a mere snow-flake, does not suggest higher associations to one who has seen through a microscope the wondrously varied and elegant forms of snow-crystals? Think you that the rounded rock marked with parallel scratches calls up as much poetry in an ignorant mind as in the mind of a geologist, who knows that over this rock a glacier slid a million years ago? The truth is, that those who have never entered upon scientific pursuits know not a tithe of the poetry by which they are surrounded. Whoever has not in youth collected plants and insects, knows not half the halo of interest which lanes and hedge-rows can assume. Whoever has not sought for fossils, has little idea of the poetical associations that surround the places where imbedded treasures were found. Whoever at the seaside has not had a microscope and aquarium, has yet to learn what the highest pleasures of the seaside are. Sad, indeed, is it to see how men occupy themselves with trivialities, and are indifferent to the grandest phenomena—care not to understand the architecture of the Heavens, but are deeply interested in some contemptible controversy about the intrigues of Mary Queen of Scots!—are learnedly critical over a Greek ode, and pass by without a glance that grand epic written by the finger of God upon the strata of the Earth!
Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical (1889), 82-83.
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[The popular impression about some chemists is that] the aquafortis and the chlorine of the laboratories have as effectually bleached the poetry out of them, as they destroy the colours of tissues exposed to their action.
'The alleged Antagonism between poetry and Chemistry.' In Jesse Aitken Wilson, Memoirs of George Wilson. Quoted in Natural History Society of Montreal, 'Reviews and Notices of Books,' The Canadian Naturalist and Geologist (1861) Vol. 6, 391.
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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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