James Clerk Maxwell

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

To The Committee Of The Cayley Portrait Fund - Poem by James Clerk Maxwell

O wretched race of men, to space confined!
What honour can ye pay to him, whose mind
To that which lies beyond hath penetrated?
The symbols he bath formed shall sound his praise,
And lead him on through unimagined ways
To conquests new, in worlds not yet created.

First, ye Determinants! in ordered row
And massive column ranged, before him go,
To form a phalanx for his safe protection.
Ye powers of the nth roots of — 1!
Around his head in ceaseless cycles run,
As unembodied spirits of direction.

And you, ye undevelopable scrolls!
Above the host wave your emblazoned rolls,
Ruled for the record of his bright inventions.
Ye Cubic surfaces! by threes and nines
Draw round his camp your seven-and-twenty lines—
The seal of Solomon in three dimensions.

March on, symbolic host! with step sublime,
Up to the flaming bounds of Space and Time!
There pause, until by Dickenson depicted,
In two dimensions, we the form may trace
Of him whose soul, too large for vulgar space,
In n dimensions flourished unrestricted.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003



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