Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare
Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.
Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace,
And lay them prone upon the earth and cease
To ponder on themselves, the while they stare
At nothing, intricately drawn nowhere
In shapes of shifting lineage; let geese
Gabble and hiss, but heroes seek release
From dusty bondage into luminous air.
O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day,
When first the shaft into his vision shone
Of light anatomized! Euclid alone
Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they
Who, though once only and then but far away,
Have heard her massive sandal set on stone.
– Edna St. Vincent Millay
I don’t think there is much that I can say to add to this poem, except that it is a fittingly beautiful tribute to a work that was the authoritative source in its field for over 2000 years (Euclid’s Elements). Its influence is shown by the fact that Euclid appeared in passing in the very first post on Universification, and he is likely to appear again.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, American poet, 1892–1950.
One could discuss the relationship between the sonnet form used here (and poetry in general) and geometric precision, but I’ll just point out that it is there if you wish to see it.