WATCHERS OF THE MOON:
Poetry and Mathematical Physics in the Long Nineteenth Century
Author Index: U-V-W-X-Y-Z
TECHNICAL NOTE: The great majority of the links below are to
scanned antique books at the Internet Archive, most of them
anthologies. Poems frequently run for several pages; when coming
to the apparent end of a poem, turn the page to make sure!
New England Christian mystic, at first much-acclaimed by the Transcendentalists. He was considered clinically insane by many of his other contemporaries, and spent time in an asylum. His attitude toward science normally oscillated between hostility and the traditional position of the Romantics, but he was scientifically literate (and oddly infatuated with telecommunications!).
is a fire-hazard, and a typical example of bad technology!
On the Completion of the Pacific Telegraph
may or may not have happened, but God is man's true origin either way.
The First Atlantic Telegraph
The First Telegraph Message
"What hath God wrought?"
To the Fossil Flower
The Glacial Marks on our Hills
Very strong geology poem. (Last stanza on next page.)
Hymn Sung at the Dedication of the Peabody Academy of Science
Religious reflexions inspired by a lecture on anatomy.
The Man of Science
learns the lesson of Job. This seems to be the poem that best exemplifies Very's attitude to science.
The Meteorologists Science is all very well, but the observation of the soul is more important.
The Moss and its Teachings
The mighty works of God, visible through a microscope.
Traditional Romantic view of science.
Nature a Living Teacher
as opposed to science.
The Origin of Man
is God. (But this is only glancingly an anti-evolution poem; its main targets seem to
be various "misguided" forms of traditional religion.)
The Potato Blight
is a message from God, not something explicable by science.
The Railroad as a John the Baptist image.
is a glacial erratic, but this fact is of minor interest to the poet, who is more concerned with humans and with God.
The Telephone is marvelous!
The Triumphs of Science and of Faith
If religion were as advanced as technology (in the age of the Transatlantic Cable), there would be no war.
The Zodiacal Light
Mentions several theories of its origin.
Walker, William Sidney:
Watson, Evelyn Mabel:
Not a wonderful poem, but many naturalists have made the same
observation: dead birds are surprisingly hard to find.
Plants: "Who says they are a lower order than we?"
"...on his labours in mitigation of animal suffering."
About a comet.
What Science Says to Truth
Webber, James B.:
In Border Scots dialect.
... dying with his work unfinished.
Wheeler Wilcox, Ella:
Sentimental poet, very popular in her day.
Science-related part is on second page.
... (including evolution) is an expression of love.
The Mill "Great and devastating as are the evils connected
with child and woman labor in mills and factories, there must be many a
man and woman who finds happiness in the work which these maunfactories
Plea to Science
Just leave Jesus alone, OK? He's important to me.
Sirius Although the "droll tale of Genesis" is absurdly parochial,
the vastness of the universe revealed by modern astronomy testifies to the
incomprehensible greatness of God.
White, Henry Kirke:
Whitsett, William Thornton:
On the Beach at Night Alone The interconnectedness of all things.
Eidólons "Beyond thy telescope or spectroscope,
observer keen ..."
Kosmos Nineteenth Century Romantic holism.
To a Locomotive in Winter "Type of the modern! emblem of
motion and power! For once, come serve the Muse."
Miracles All things are miracles.
Song of the Universal
"Lo ! keen eyed towering science ... Yet again, lo ! The soul
above all science."
When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer
This is often considered the quintessential anti-science poem,
but Whitman was part of a pro-science Romantic tradition. His real
target is not science per se, but science divorced from direct,
often mystical, experience of Nature.
The World Below the Brine The deep sea
(one of the Nineteenth Century's
scientific frontiers) as an alien universe.
Year of Meteors The year 1859-1860, significant astronomically
Northern Lights. The question of whether the aurora produces
a sound was much debated in the Nineteenth Century.
The New; the Old
"The Old" is the vast, impersonal cosmos revealed by science; "the New" is the Now,
all things in Nature joined together by God.
Newton, Galileo, and Kepler as God-like (sic) heroes.
Willis, Nathaniel Parker:
Best known as Poe's friend and editor.
In Twenty-first Century English, the title would be
"The Student Assistant of Thābit ibn Qurra," the Ninth Century
Sabian scientist and wizard. More technical than most astronomy poems,
even though the moral is that science drives people mad.
Wilson, Edmund, Jr.:
A prominent man of letters, Wilson was one of the most influential literary scholars of the
Part of The Undertaker's Garland, a
book of morbidly comic rhymed verse that young Wilson and
his friend John Peale Bishop wrote upon their return from the Great War.
Peculiar, longwinded, digressive satirist.
Wood, Charles Erskine Scott:
The Old Astronomer
Famous (but over-long) sentimental poem about a dying scientist.
Contains the much-quoted line "I have loved the stars too truly to
be fearful of the night."
The Eclipse of the Sun, 1820 as the poet witnessed it.
The Excursion, Book III:
Much geological imagery, some of it technical.
The Excursion, Book IV:
Successes and failures of reason.
The Excursion, Book VIII: True science vs. false.
The Pass of Kirkstone :
Prologue to Peter Bell An imagined space-voyage.
To the Planet Venus, Upon its Approximation to the Earth, Jan. 1838:
"Science advances with gigantic strides // But are we aught
enriched in love and meekness ?"
The Power of Education
The triumph of science of superstition. Perhaps Wordsworth's first poem,
written when he was 14.
- The Prelude,
Book III (Cambridge) and
Book VI (Cambridge and the Alps)
The River Duddon, II:
A vision of prehistory.
Star Gazers Although the poet is unsure of the reason, people who
look through a telescope always go away less happy
than before. Arguably one of the
most anti-scientific poems of the century, the more surprising in
light of Wordsworth's long, friendly association with astronomers,
including the Hamiltons. Perhaps it
is significant that the telescope is operated by a "Show-man"
and the people who go away unhappy are said to
"pry & pore" as they look through it. In any case, an early poem
Yeats, William Butler:
Yeats rarely addressed science or technology in his poems, claiming
to prefer (and indeed to practise) magic. That being said, his occultism
(shaped by the quasi-academic style of the Golden Dawn and later by
the philosophical complexities of Eastern religion) was so formal and
rigorous that it might as well have been a branch of physics or engineering.
The usual neo-pagan
lament about the disenchantment of the world: Seek, then, no
learning from the starry men who follow with the optic glass the
whirling ways of stars that pass ... the cold star-bane has cloven
and rent their hearts in twain...
A children's poem, but very similar to other telegraphy poems.
Apparently written in some alternate Nineteenth Century
where it was not uncommon to see an airplane "spread
its wings like a butterfly"!
THE NET ADVANCE OF PHYSICS
Nineteenth Century Poetry