By: Archibald MacLeish
September 10, 2022

A (pro- or anti-) science-, mathematics-, technology-, space-, apocalypse-, dehumanization-, disenchantment-, and/or future-oriented poem published during sf’s emergent Radium Age (c. 1900–1935). Research and selection by Joshua Glenn.

AI-assisted illustration by HILOBROW

        He lies upon his bed
Exerting on Arcturus and the moon
Forces proportional inversely to
The squares of their remoteness and conceives
The universe.
        He can count
Ocean in atoms and weigh out the air
In multiples of one and subdivide
Light to its numbers.
        If they will not speak
Let them be silent in their particles.
Let them be dead and he will lie among
Their dust and cipher them — undo the signs
Of their unreal identities and free
The pure and single factor of all sums —
Solve them to unity.

— An excerpt from a meditation (published by Black Sun Press in 1929) recapitulating the stages in Einstein’s struggle, from classical empiricism through romantic empathy to modern, introspective, analytic physics, to contain and comprehend the physical universe.


RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF POETRY: Stephen Spender’s THE PYLONS | George Sterling’s THE TESTIMONY OF THE SUNS | Archibald MacLeish’s EINSTEIN | Thomas Thornely’s THE ATOM | C.S. Lewis’s DYMER | Stephen Vincent Benét’s METROPOLITAN NIGHTMARE | Robert Frost’s FIRE AND ICE | Aldous Huxley’s FIFTH PHILOSOPHER’S SONG | Sara Teasdale’s “THERE WILL COME SOFT RAINS” | Edith Södergran’s ON FOOT I HAD TO… | Robert Graves’s WELSH INCIDENT | Nancy Cunard’s ZEPPELINS | D.H. Lawrence’s WELLSIAN FUTURES | & many more.


Poetry, Radium Age SF