Gleanings from the Past #91

Monotony The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the […]

Read More

“The Arrow and the Song”

I shot an arrow into the air, It fell to earth, I knew not where; For, so swiftly it flew, the sight Could not follow it in its flight. I breathed a song into the air, It fell to earth, I knew not where; For who has sight so keen and strong, That it can […]

Read More

Memory and Forgetfulness

Themistocles, when Simonides said that he would teach him mnemonics, or the art of improving one’s memory, replied that he would rather learn the art of forgetfulness: Memory, and thou, Forgetfulness, all hail! Each in her province greatly may avail. Memory, of all things good remind us still: Forgetfulness, obliterate all that’s ill. This was […]

Read More

Less Is More: A Poetic Paradox

Image: NASA In his Paradoxes in Probability Theory and Mathematical Statistics (1986), Gábor J. Székely shared a paradox learned from his professor, Alfréd Rényi: Since I started to deal with information theory I have often meditated upon the conciseness of poems; how can a single line of verse contain far more ‘information’ than a highly […]

Read More

A Secured House

Image: “Modern bust of Catullus on the Piazza Carducci in Sirmione”, Wikimedia The following epigram illustrates an amusing play on words. It was written by Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84 BC – c. 54 BC), a Roman poet during the late Roman Republic, and was translated by Theodore Martin from Latin in The Poems of Catullus, 1861. […]

Read More

A One Syllable Per Line Sonnet

The following is an remarkable short “sonnet” titled “An Aeronaut to his Lady” composed by Frank Sidgwick (1879-1939) quoted in David McCord (Editor), What Cheer: An Anthology of American and British Humorous and Witty Verse, 1945: I Through Blue Sky Fly To You. Why? Sweet Love, Feet Move So Slow! This sonnet differs from traditional […]

Read More

Be Good, Be Good…

Be good, be good, be always good, And now & then be clever, But don’t you ever be too good, Nor ever be too clever; For such as be too awful good They awful lonely are, And such as often clever be Get cut & stung & trodden on by persons of lesser mental capacity, […]

Read More

The Two-Toed & Three-Toed Tree Toads

A he-toad loved a she-toad That lived high in a tree. She was a two-toed tree toad But a three-toed toad was he. The three-toed tree toad tried to win The she-toad’s nuptial nod, For the three-toed tree toad loved the road The two-toed tree toad trod. Hard as the three-toed tree toad tried, He […]

Read More

“Successful And Fortunate Crime Is Called Virtue” And Other Parallels In Literature

Seneca the Younger While reading Edward Walker’s Historical Discourses (1705), the following sentence he quoted got my attention: Prosperum ac felix scelus, virtus vocatur. Walker neglected to provide the source of the quote. However, I am pretty sure that he was referring to the passage from the tragedy Hercules Furens (The Madness of Hercules) written […]

Read More