By: Archibald MacLeish
November 17, 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.

From MacLeish’s 1926 collection Streets in the Moon.

Laboratory c. 1915–1920 (LOC)

    To the World
The Cause of Causes in the Handy Case,
Tomorrow in Tubes, Eternity in Cartons.
One hundred billion lives in each
Cities, Nations, Continents even, Planets,
New hopes, New hungers, New despairs,
    New Christs,
Ages, Eras, Centuries, Ends, Beginnings,
    LIFE in the vial with the Safety Catch,
      LIFE in the Perpendicular Decanter,
The insulated, thermo-static, safe
In every clime and climate, weather-
Perfected, folding Holder decorated
With fancy hair and finished in the likeness
Of the Inventor. His face on every package.
None genuine without the photograph.
Free! Death’s cure, Grave’s simple, Time’s
The drug for darkness, Night’s mandragora —
    To the World
      For nothing…


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