The Delights of Mathematics

Original Text: 
R. F. Murray, The Scarlet Gown: Being Verses by a St. Andrews Man, 2nd edn., intro. by Andrew Lang (Glasgow: James MacLehose, 1909): 75-76. LE M9837sc Robarts Library
1It seems a hundred years or more
2    Since I, with note-book, ink and pen,
3In cap and gown, first trod the floor
4    Which I have often trod since then;
5Yet well do I remember when
6    With fifty other fond fanatics,
7I sought delights beyond my ken,
8    The deep delights of Mathematics.
9I knew that two and two made four,
10    I felt that five times two were ten,
11But, as for all profounder lore,
12    The robin redbreast or the wren,
13The sparrow, whether cock or hen,
15Was less confused by x and n,
16    The deep delights of Mathematics.
18    I floundered in the noisome fen
19Which lies behind it and before;
20    I wandered in the gloomy glen
23I said Good-bye, Farewell, Amen!
24    The deep delighst of Mathematics.
26    Who strive with Euclid in your attics,
27For worlds I would not taste again
28    The deep delights of Mathematics.


14] Quadratics: quadratic equations, a field in algebra. Back to Line
17] The Asses' Bridge: "Pons Asinorum: a humorous name now given to the fifth proposition of the first book of Euclid's Elements" (OED, "ass"). Back to Line
21] Surds: "irrational" numbers, quantities that cannot be expressed in finite terms.
Factors: for example, numbers that divide into another number. Back to Line
22] Statics: a branch of physics that deals with "the action of forces in producing equilibrium or relative rest" (OED). Back to Line
25] Bejants: first-year undergraduates at St. Andrews' University. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: