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Two Poems

ISSUE:  Winter 1944

The Famous Mathematician

There was a sum the Famous Mathematician
Could not account for in his Art of Numbers;—
This sum, by marvellous mystery or miracle
He had mislaid in his Files, in his Ledger.
He had, himself, mislaid.
He noted this ‘stolen or strayed’ or ‘a florin lost.’
Our bodies he made as truly as great builders,
And our great foundation laid.
Have I remembered a myth,—
That the Famous Mathematician had let slip—the Ghost?
He is greater now than ever before, uppermost.
He destroys in millions of moments all that he made
Of his creation, man’s labour and nature.
Yet he is anxious as all scientists are
Perpetually about the Electron, the Distances,
About the Dimensions, and the Weight and Height
Of some bright particular Star.
Distract with Numbers, which Poets see but take no note of,
They taking no note of numbers
Who do not calculate calculate the Depth of Love,
Of some bright particular Love,
Nor the Height nor suffering thereof,—
For the Poet alone was born without sense of Time
Or Space or Place, living and dying millions of moments
With a light rhyme, for he without sense of Time
Has no sense of the Dead.
Yet in this war,
He being dumb for a short time awhile,
Dies uncounting the calculation, or the lost florin,—
Being but the Ghost lost to the Ledger,
Being but for a short time dumb
In the thought of the Famous Mathematician
And his great mathematical sum.
But the Sin against the Holy Ghost . . .
That miscalculation of the accountant?
It shall not be forgiven unto the mathematician.
He hath sinned against the Light.
It shall not be forgiven unto him.


Once I heard a lovely woman say,
Staring into the river,— “If you do not come to me,
I will come to you.”
This was not an Ophelia of our days
Neither the lovely lady of Lancelot,
But one who won great fame;
You know her name.
She was so lovely, moving her moth-like hands.
You will all remember,
That we forgot she was elderly, and not after all
So very beautiful,
Yet her genius, her wit, her irony, her pen,
Were beyond that of any woman I have ever known.
But alas! with an Agony,
With a Terror above her always suspended . . ..
So one day, at last, she went down alone to the river,
Leaving her walking stick only, to tell us the place
Where she had slipped so contentedly, ah, so contentedly
Into the river.
At last, at the river-mouth on the shore
They found her, who drowned so contentedly
In the clear white chalk of the water;
Strangely as lovely as ever they found her
Lying on the chalk of the shingle,
She lonely and lovely as ever.
She, all her life being so in love with Life,
Yet more in love with Death Drew her life from intense
Life, but from even Intenser Death.
Ah, Virginia the Beloved! If only, ah, if only. . . .


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