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

V. B. Nimble, V. B. Quick – John Updike

V. B. Nimble, V. B. Quick

V. B. Wigglesworth wakes at noon,
Washes, shaves and very soon
Is at the lab; he reads his mail,
Swings a tadpole by the tail,
Undoes his coat, removes his hat,
Dips a spider in a vat
Of alkaline, phones the press,
Tells them he is F.R.S.,
Subdivides six protocells,
Kills a rat by ringing bells,
Writes a treatise, edits two
Symposia on “Will man do?”,
Gives a lecture, audits three,
Has the sperm club in for tea,
Pensions off an ageing spore,
Cracks a test tube, takes some pure
Science and applies it, finds
His hat, adjusts it, pulls the blinds,
Instructs the jellyfish to spawn,
And, by one o’clock, is gone.

– John Updike

Continue reading

Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare – Edna St. Vincent Millay

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

Continue reading

Moa Point – Fleur Adcock

Moa Point

At Moa Point that afternoon
two biologists were searching rockpools
for specimens. It was low tide.
I watched. They rolled away a stone,
fossicked in wet weed, described things
rather self-consciously to each other.
Then one of them put into my hands
a cold heavy jelly: my first sea-slug.
I peered gratefully down at it,
turned it over – did nothing, surely?
for them to laugh at. ‘See that?’
said the one with freckles (they were both quite young)
‘it doesn’t seem to worry her.’
‘Oh, well,’ said the other ‘these local kids…’
I kept my eyes down for a moment
in solemn, scientific study;
then said in my recently-acquired
almost local accent ‘Thank you.’
And firmly but gently (a vet with a kitten)
handed it back

– Fleur Adcock

Continue reading