Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy new year, from Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Feynman & me

Sonnet -- To Science
Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or deem thee wise?
Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jeweled skies,
Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
Has thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?
- Edgar Allan Poe

Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars -
mere gobs of gas atoms. Nothing is "mere." I too can see
the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more?
The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination -
stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light.

A vast pattern - of which I am a part - perhaps my stuff was belched
from some forgotten star, as one is belching there. Or see them
with the greater eye of Palomar, rushing all apart from some
common starting point when they were perhaps all together.
What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm
to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth
than any artists of the past imagined! Why do the poets of the present
not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter
if he were like a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere
of methane and ammonia must be silent?
- --Richard Feynman

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