Molecular Evolution

Original Text: 
Lewis Campbell, The Life of James Clerk Maxwell, with a selection from his correspondence and occasional writings and a sketch of his contributions to science (London: Macmillan, 1882): 637-38. QC 16 M4C3 Gerstein Library
1At quite uncertain times and places,
2    The atoms left their heavenly path,
3And by fortuitous embraces,
4    Engendered all that being hath.
5And though they seem to cling together,
6    And form "associations" here,
7Yet, soon or late, they burst their tether,
8    And through the depths of space career.
9So we who sat, oppressed with science,
10    As British asses, wise and grave,
12    As round our prey we ramp and rave.
13Thus, by a swift metamorphosis,
14    Wisdom turns wit, and science joke,
15Nonsense is incense to our noses,
16    For when Red Lions speak, they smoke.
18    From thee the wise their wisdom learn,
19From thee they cull those truths of science,
20    Which into thee again they turn.
21What combinations of ideas,
22    Nonsense alone can wisely form!
23What sage has half the power that she has,
24    To take the towers of Truth by storm?
25Yield, then, ye rules of rigid reason!
26    Dissolve, thou too, too solid sense!
27Melt into nonsense for a season,
28    Then in some nobler form condense.
29Soon, all too soon, the chilly morning,
30    This flow of soul will crystallize,
31Then those who Nonsense now are scorning,
32    May learn, too late, where wisdom lies.


11] "The `Red Lions' are a club formed by Members of the British Association, to meet for relaxation after the graver labours of the day." (Note by Campbell.) Back to Line
17] "Leonum arida nutrix." -- Horace. (Note by Campbell.) Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
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