James Clerk Maxwell

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

To Hermann Stoffkraft, Ph.D., The Hero Of A Recent Work Called Paradoxical Philosophy - Poem by James Clerk Maxwell

A paradoxical ode, after Shelley.


My soul is an entangled knot,
Upon a liquid vortex wrought
By Intellect, in the Unseen residing,
And thine cloth like a convict sit,
With marlinspike untwisting it,
Only to find its knottiness abiding;
Since all the tools for its untying
In four-dimensioned space are lying
Wherein thy fancy intersperses
Long avenues of universes,
While Klein and Clifford fill the void
With one finite, unbounded homaloid,
And think the Infinite is now at last destroyed.


But when thy Science lifts her pinions
In Speculation’s wild dominions,
We treasure every dictum thou emittest,
While down the stream of Evolution
We drift, expecting no solution
But that of the survival of the fittest.
Till, in the twilight of the gods,
When earth and sun are frozen clods,
When, all its energy degraded,
Matter to æther shall have faded;
We, that is, all the work we’ve done,
As waves in æther, shall for ever run
In ever-widening spheres through heavens beyond the sun.


Great Principle of all we see,
Unending Continuity!
By thee are all our angles sweetly rounded,
By thee are our misfits adjusted,
And as I still in thee have trusted,
So trusting, let me never be confounded!
Oh never may direct Creation
Break in upon my contemplation;
Still may thy causal chain, ascending,
Appear unbroken and unending,
While Residents in the Unseen—
Æons and Emanations—intervene,
And from my shrinking soul the Unconditioned screen.

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Read poems about / on: ode, hero, sun, work, trust, running

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

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