This nonsense poem was written by Dr. W. H. Williams for a faculty club dinner on the eve of the physicist Eddington's departure from Berkeley in 1924.

The Einstein and the Eddington


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The Einstein and the Eddington

by Dr. W. H. Williams

The sun was setting on the links,
The moon looked down serene,
The caddies all had gone to bed,
But still there could be seen
Two players lingering by the trap
That guards the thirteenth green.

The Einstein and the Eddington
Were counting up their score;
The Einstein's card showed ninety-eight
And Eddington's was more.
And both lay bunkered in the trap
And both stood there and swore.

I hate to see, the Einstein said;
Such quantities of sand;
Just why they placed a bunker here
I cannot understand.
If one could smooth this landscape out,
I think it would be grand.

If seven maids with seven mops
Would sweep the fairway clean
I'm sure that I could make this hole
In less than seventeen.
I doubt it, said the Eddington,
Your slice is pretty mean.

Then all the little golf balls came
To see what they were at,
And some of them were tall and thin
And some were short and fat,
A few of them were round and smooth,
But most of them were flat.

The time has come, said Eddington,
To talk of many things:
Of cubes and clocks and meter-sticks
And why a pendulum swings.
And how far space is out of plumb,
And whether time has wings.

I learned at school the apple's fall
To gravity was due,
But now you tell me that the cause
Is merely G_mu-nu,
I cannot bring myself to think
That this is really true.

You say that gravitation's force
Is clearly not a pull.
That space is mostly emptiness,
While time is nearly full;
And though I hate to doubt your word,
It sounds like a bit of bull.

And space, it has dimensions four,
Instead of only three.
The square of the hypotenuse
Ain't what it used to be.
It grieves me sore, the things you've done
To plane geometry.

You hold that time is badly warped,
That even light is bent:
I think I get the idea there,
If this is what you meant:
The mail the postman brings today,
Tomorrow will be sent.

If I should go Timbuctoo
With twice the speed of light,
And leave this afternoon at four,
I'd get back home last night.
You've got it now, the Einstein said,
That is precisely right.

But if the planet Mercury
In going round the sun,
Never returns to where it was
Until its course is run,
The things we started out to do
Were better not begun.

And if before the past is through,
The future intervenes;
Then what's the use of anything;
Of cabbages or queens?
Pray tell me what's the bally use
Of Presidents and Deans.

The shortest line, Einstein replied,
Is not the one that's straight;
It curves around upon itself,
Much like a figure eight,
And if you go too rapidly
You will arrive too late.

But Easter day is Christmas time
And far away is near,
And two and two is more than four
And over there is here.
You may be right, said Eddington,
It seems a trifle queer.

But thank you very, very much,
For troubling to explain;
I hope you will forgive my tears,
My head begins to pain;
I feel the symptoms coming on
Of softening of the brain.


This nonsense poem (which is based on Lewis Carroll’s "The Walrus and the Carpenter" in "Through the looking-glass") was written by Dr. W. H. Williams (who shared an office with Eddington) for a faculty club dinner on the eve of Eddington's departure from Berkeley in 1924.

Task 1

Decide if the statements about the poem are true or false.






I didn't like this article. The voice of Edington was annoying and there are more thatn just four dimension. The ryme was ok but I was hoping to learn more about Einstein and Edington rather than this poem.

I like this article!

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer  by Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
In this classic poem, the speaker hears a scientist lecturing, presenting proofs, charts, and diagrams about the stars. Soon the poet grows weary and ventures outside to look up “in perfect silence at the stars.” The poem, while valuing scientific knowledge, speaks to the value of direct experience, both in science and in life. Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

The Planting

Look closely at the soundless
mobs of bees drifting among the marigolds.
Their pollen sacs are swollen,
heavy with the male seed that sighs
between a yellow bed
and the shadow of an ovum's room.

Notice my trowel too,
how I entrust its business end with the soil.
This is the easy part,
the earth coolly tender from last night's rain.
Its skin peeled back,
the ground yawns and stretches,

its feelers ticking faintly, tasting sun.
I crouch like a microscope, hovering
over the hole to watch the insects watching me.
I should have made a clank, intrusion
of clutch and gear, all the mental levers working limbs,
eye blink, and the harsh ploughing of the jaw.

But I have no voice for this,
and framed in a blinding sun these telescoping arms
must orbit unfathomed (their intentions
masked by silver mirrors reflecting clouds)
while tense plates of muscles
shift and compel my tectonic grip

to rock with a slow, elemental motion.
Then, as I spoon phosphate and lime,
ants scurry about their shattered room,
specks in Brownian motion
scattered, nonplussed,
and protesting with the clay.

Imagine my obsession
as I mate earth with roots green-tipped
and tumid with life, their cogwheels
straining to lock teeth inside the ancient place
(near my feet)
which I have prepared.

Water rushing down the sluice
disappears as each cell greedily fills its cask.
The plant is full of sweet wine drained
from a table held atilt, a greenhouse drunk
that thinks he's the only game in town
as he unpacks his limbs.

A stranger to these parts,
he quickly branches into my brain
where cardinals pluck the fruit from pedicels,
where plumes of inflorescence
are ravished in shadows of the old woods
which recede,

and where trembles of dispute
tighten the metaphysical throat through which I breathe,
alternately stripping or quickening my confidence
in a world, grounded in weeds,
that watches a plant flex its muscles
but speaks in the inaudible voice I am trying to explain.

All alone in their hive,
Cyprian queens and domestic drones
make sterile love. And there is no cure
as flowers chaste and drawstring tight against the bee's
stingless probe are turning from the garden
that is spading over and over.

by Daniel E. Wexler