By: D.H. Lawrence
June 4, 2023

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.

Row of council houses in Bilton (UK), 1930s

O stiffly shapen houses that change not,
  What conjuror’s cloth was thrown across
     you, and raised
To show you thus transfigured, changed,
  Your stuff all gone, your menace almost

Such resolute shapes, so harshly set
  In hollow blocks and cubes deformed, and
In void and null profusion, how is this?
  In what strong aqua regia now are you

That you lose the brick-stuff out of you
  And hover like a presentment, fading faint
And vanquished, evaporate away
  To leave but only the merest possible

— From “Rhyming Poems” (1913–1928, a section within the 1928 Collected Poems).

Aqua regia is a fuming solution of nitrohydrochloric acid. It was named by alchemists because it can dissolve the noble metals gold and platinum, though not all metals.


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