James Clerk Maxwell

(13 June 1831 – 5 November 1879 / Edinburgh, Scotland)

Reply to the Above, by F.W.F. Poem by James Clerk Maxwell


"Te quoque vatem dicunt pastores."—VIRGIL.


O Maxwell, if by reason’s strength
And studying of Babbage,
You have transformed yourself at length
Into a mental cabbage;
And if I've proved myself a lark
At morn and blushing even,
By soaring like a music-spark
Thro’ sapphire fields of Heaven,

Our diverse fates are now reversed
By strange metempsychosis,
Into a cabbage I have burst
And scorn poetic posies;
But you a lark with twinkling wings
O’er violet-banks are soaring;
Your voice the dewy rose-cloud rings
While Statics me are boring.

Yet cabbage as I will—on earth
My roots I cannot anchor,
For at my mathematic birth
Was also born a canker!
It soon will gnaw my roots away-—
But when I weigh a chœnix
I’ll freely soar to realms of day
An emerald cabbage-Phœnix.

Then talk not of the Poll to me,
I hate, detest, and scorn it;
I am as earnest as a bee,
But savage as a hornet.
And if they pluck me I will drown
Each pedant in a sonnet,
And of their pluckings make a crown
With golden plumes upon it.

So if my cabbage growth be slow
I'll try to be a carrot,
Or still remain a lark—but know
I'll not be Poll, or Parrot.
Then if I fall beneath the mark,
I’ll shout with accent savage,
"It is a lark to be a lark,
’Tis green to be a cabbage"

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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