By: Archibald MacLeish
December 18, 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.

Kandinsky’s Deepened Impulse (1928)

… It is colder now,
   there are many stars,
      we are drifting
North by the Great Bear,
   the leaves are falling,
The water is stone in the scooped rocks,
      to southward
Red sun grey air:
   the crows are
Slow on their crooked wings,
      the jays have left us:
Long since we passed the flares of Orion.
Each man believes in his heart he will die.
Many have written last thoughts and last
None know if our deaths are now or
None know if this wandering earth will be

We lie down and the snow covers our
I pray you,
   you (if any open this writing)
Make in your mouths the words that were
      our names.
I will tell you all we have learned,
      I will tell you everything:
The earth is round,
   there are springs under the orchards,
The loam cuts with a blunt knife,
   beware of
Elms in thunder,
   the lights in the sky are stars —
We think they do not see,
   we think also
The trees do not know nor the leaves of the
      grasses hear us:
The birds too are ignorant.
      Do not listen.
Do not stand at dark in the open windows.
We before you have heard this:
   they are voices:
They are not words at all but the wind
Also none among us has seen God.
(… We have thought often
The flaws of sun in the late and driving
Pointed to one tree but it was not so.)
As for the nights I warn you the nights are
The wind changes at night and the dreams
It is very cold,
   there are strange stars near Arcturus,
Voices are crying an unknown name in the

— From New Found Land (1930).

“‘Epistle to Be Left to the Earth’ … ends with a cry across the generations. The epistle of this dark, prophetic, and powerful poem is a document written to convey to people of future generations what a man of this time has learned and what is still unknown.” — from Scott Donaldson’s 2016 book Archibald MacLeish: An American Life.


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