By: Guillaume Apollinaire
November 8, 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.

Apollinaire, c. 1916

The 31st day of August 1914
I left Deauville a little before midnight
In Rouveyre’s little car

Counting his driver there were three of us

We said good-bye to an entire epoch
Furious giants were rising over Europe
Eagles were leaving their aeries expecting
     the sun
Voracious fish were rising from the depths
Populations were rushing to know each
     other intimately
The dead were trembling with fear in their
     dark dwellings

The dogs were barking toward over there
     where the frontier is
I went bearing within me all those armies
I felt them rise up in me and spread out
     over the countries they wound through
With the forests the happy villages of
Francorchamps with l’Eau Rouge and the
     mineral springs
Region the invasions always come through
Railway arteries where those who were
     going off to die
Saluted one last time this colorful life
Deep oceans where monsters were moving
In old shipwrecked hulks
Unimaginable heights where men fight
Higher than the eagle soars
There men fight men
And suddenly fall like shooting stars
I felt in myself new and totally capable
Build and organize a new universe
A merchant of amazing opulence and
     astounding size
Was laying out an extraordinary display
And gigantic shepherds were leading
Great silent flocks that were grazing on
With every dog on the road barking at

— An excerpt from Guillaume Apollinaire’s “The Little Car” (1918).


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