Hall and Knight
or ‘z + b + x = y + b + z’
When he was young his cousins used to say of Mr Knight
‘This boy will write an algebra – or looks as if he might.’
And sure enough, when Mr Knight had grown to be a man,
He purchased pen and paper and an inkpot, and began.
But he very soon discovered that he couldn’t write at all,
And his heart was filled with yearnings for a certain Mr Hall;
Till, after many years of doubt, he sent his friend a card
‘Have tried to write an Algebra, but find it very hard.’
Now Mr Hall himself had tried to write a book for schools,
But suffered from a handicap, he didn’t know the rules.
So when he heard from Mr Knight and understood his gist,
He answered him by telegram ‘Delighted to assist.’
So Mr Hall and Mr Knight they took a house together,
And they worked away at algebra in any kind of weather,
Determined not to give up until they had evolved
A problem so constructed that it never could be solved.
‘How hard it is’, said Mr Knight, ‘to hide the fact from youth
That x and y are equal it is such an obvious truth!’
‘It is’, said Mr Hall, ‘but if we gave a b to each,
We’d put the problem well beyond our little victims’ reach.
‘Or are you anxious, Mr Knight, lest any boy should see
The utter superfluity of this repeated b.’
‘I scarcely fear it’, he replied, and scratched this grizzled head,
‘But perhaps it would be safer if to b we added z.’
‘A brilliant stroke!’, said Hall, and added z to either side;
Then looked at his accomplice with a flush of happy pride.
And Knight, he winked at Hall (a very pardonable lapse).
And they printed off the Algebra and sold it to the chaps.
– E. V. Rieu
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!
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,
Ink: I perhaps may as well hold my tongue; (75)
But there’s five hundred people can tell you you’re wrong.
– Lord Byron
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
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