Friday, May 07, 2004

A Rare Treat 

Rarely is poetry about science or math any good, in my limited experience. Most of what I have encountered is filk, little better than that produced by high schoolers at summer math camps, whose sole purpose is to rhyme and to amuse. But this month's First Things offers a little gem that is quite stunning:

Olber's Paradox

The heavens hold more stars than earth has grains
Of sand, and given time, each tiny sun
Combined should make a world where starlight stains
The sky bright white and dark would be undone.
And yet the night remains. The dim stars gleam
Their separate ways, and constellations drawn
Connect their dots, while under them we dream
And sleep, then wake to such a thing as dawn.
The universe, expanding since its birth,
Is larger, older than its light; sublime,
The force that keeps this constant day from earth--
The same that measures out our years--is time:
The limitation that provides us night
And saves us all from unremitting light.
   --Robert W. Crawford

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