Crystals Like Blood – Hugh MacDiarmid

Crystals Like Blood

I remember how, long ago, I found
Crystals like blood in a broken stone.

I picked up a broken chunk of bed-rock
And turned it this way and that,
It was heavier than one would have expected
From its size. One face was caked
With brown limestone. But the rest
Was a hard greenish-grey quartz-like stone
Faintly dappled with darker shadows,
And in this quartz ran veins and beads
Of bright magenta.

And I remember how later on I saw
How mercury is extracted from cinnebar
—The double ring of iron piledrivers
Like the multiple legs of a fantastically symmetrical spider
Rising and falling with monotonous precision,
Marching round in an endless circle
And pounding up and down with a tireless, thunderous force,
While, beyond, another conveyor drew the crumbled ore
From the bottom and raised it to an opening high
In the side of a gigantic grey-white kiln.

So I remember how mercury is got
When I contrast my living memory of you
And your dear body rotting here in the clay
—And feel once again released in me
The bright torrents of felicity, naturalness, and faith
My treadmill memory draws from you yet.

– Hugh MacDiarmid

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Elements – Tom Lehrer

The Elements

There’s antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium,
And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium,
And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium,
And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium,
Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium,
And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium,
And gold, protactinium and indium and gallium,
And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium.

There’s yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, rubidium,
And boron, gadolinium, niobium, iridium,
And strontium and silicon and silver and samarium,
And bismuth, bromine, lithium, beryllium, and barium.

There’s holmium and helium and hafnium and erbium,
And phosphorus and francium and fluorine and terbium,
And manganese and mercury, molybdenum, magnesium,
Dysprosium and scandium and cerium and cesium.
And lead, praseodymium, and platinum, plutonium,
Palladium, promethium, potassium, polonium,
And tantalum, technetium, titanium, tellurium,
And cadmium and calcium and chromium and curium.

There’s sulfur, californium, and fermium, berkelium,
And also mendelevium, einsteinium, nobelium,
And argon, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, zinc, and rhodium,
And chlorine, carbon, cobalt, copper, tungsten, tin, and sodium.

These are the only ones of which the news has come to Ha’vard,
And there may be many others, but they haven’t been discavard.

– Tom Lehrer

Continue reading

To Madame Curie – Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson

To Madame Curie

Oft have I thrilled at deeds of high emprise,
And yearned to venture into realms unknown,
Thrice blessed she, I deemed, whom God had shown
How to achieve great deeds in woman’s guise.
Yet what discov’ry by expectant eyes
Of foreign shores, could vision half the throne
Full gained by her, whose power fully grown
Exceeds the conquerors of th’uncharted skies
So would I be this woman whom the world
Avows its benefactor; nobler far,
Than Sybil, Joan, Sappho, or Egypt’s queen.
In the alembic forged her shafts and hurled
At pain, diseases, waging a humane war;
Greater than this achievement, none, I ween.

– Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson

Continue reading

The Blues – Lord Byron

Apologies for any formatting issues; the long lines, many broken over several rows, cause certain problems. I have added line numbers in an attempt to make it easier to follow. The poem rhymes in couplets.

from The Blues: A Literary Eclogue

London – Before the Door of a Lecture Room
[Enter Tracy, meeting Inkel.]

Tra:              What, won’t you return to the lecture? (40)
Ink: Why, the place is so cramm’d, there’s not room for a spectre.
        Besides, our friend Scamp is to-day so absurd—
Tra: How can you know that till you hear him?
Ink:                                                                     I heard
        Quite enough; and, to tell you the truth, my retreat
        Was from his vile nonsense, no less than the heat. (45)
Tra: I have had no great loss then?
Ink:                                                 Loss! – such a palaver!
        I’d inoculate sooner my wife with the slaver
        Of a dog when gone rabid, than listen two hours
        To the torrent of trash which around him he pours,
        Pump’d up with such effort, disgorged with such labour, (50)
        That— come – do not make me speak ill of one’s neighbour.
Tra: I make you!
Ink:                   Yes, you! I said nothing until
        You compell’d me, by speaking the truth—
Tra:                                                                 To speak ill?
        Is that your deduction?
Ink:                                  When speaking of Scamp ill,
        I certainly follow, not set an example. (55)
        The fellow’s a fool, an impostor, a zany.
Tra: And the crowd of to-day shows that one fool makes many.
        But we two will be wise.
Ink:                             Pray, then, let us retire.
Tra: I would, but—
Ink:                   There must be attraction much higher
        Than Scamp, or the Jews’ harp he nicknames his lyre, (60)
        To call you to this hotbed.
Tra:                                       I own it – ’tis true –
        A fair lady—
Ink:                   A spinster?
Tra:                                       Miss Lilac!
Ink:                                                           The Blue!
        The heiress?
Tra:                   The angel!
Ink:                                       The devil! why, man,
        Pray get out of this hobble as fast as you can.
        You wed with Miss Lilac! ‘twould be your perdition: (65)
        She’s a poet, a chymist, a mathematician.
Tra: I say she’s an angel!
Ink:                              Say rather an angle.
        If you and she marry, you’ll certainly wrangle.
        I say she’s a Blue, man, as blue as the ether.
Tra: And is that any cause for not coming together? (70)
Ink: Humph! I can’t say I know any happy alliance
        Which has lately sprung up from a wedlock with science.
        She’s so learned in all things, and fond of concerning
        Herself in all matters connected with learning,
        That—
Tra:         What?
Ink:                   I perhaps may as well hold my tongue; (75)
        But there’s five hundred people can tell you you’re wrong.

– Lord Byron

Continue reading

Hiawatha’s Photographing – Lewis Carroll

from Hiawatha’s Photographing

From his shoulder Hiawatha
Took the camera of rosewood,
Made of sliding, folding rosewood;
Neatly put it all together.
In its case it lay compactly,
Folded into nearly nothing;
But he opened out the hinges,
Pushed and pulled the joints and hinges,
Till it looked all squares and oblongs,
Like a complicated figure
In the Second Book of Euclid.

This he perched upon a tripod –
Crouched beneath its dusky cover –
Stretched his hand, enforcing silence –
Said “Be motionless, I beg you!”
Mystic, awful was the process.

First, a piece of glass he coated
With collodion, and plunged it
In a bath of lunar caustic
Carefully dissolved in water –
There he left it certain minutes.

Secondly, my Hiawatha
Made with cunning hand a mixture
Of the acid pyrro-gallic,
And of glacial-acetic,
And of alcohol and water
This developed all the picture.

Finally, he fixed each picture
With a saturate solution
Which was made of hyposulphite
Which, again, was made of soda.
(Very difficult the name is
For a metre like the present
But periphrasis has done it.)

All the family in order
Sat before him for their pictures:
Each in turn, as he was taken,
Volunteered his own suggestions,
His ingenious suggestions.

– Lewis Carroll

Continue reading