By: Arthur Schnitzler
February 6, 2024

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.

Kazimir Malevich’s An Englishman in Moscow (1914)


The streets were almost deserted. A steeple clock struck two. It was good, he reflected, that he did not yet have to keep office hours, and that he could sleep late tomorrow. He walked rapidly, surely, humming to himself. Finally he began to sing in a low rich voice that seemed strange to him. Perhaps, indeed, this is not I. Perhaps I am dreaming. Perhaps this is my last dream, the death-bed dream! He remembered an idea that Leinbach once, years ago, had expounded to a large gathering, quite seriously, in fact with a certain impressiveness. Leinbach had discovered a proof that there really is no death. It is beyond question, he had declared, that not only at the moment of drowning, but at all the moments of death of any nature, one lives over again his whole past life with a rapidity inconceivable to others. This remembered life must also have a last moment, and this last moment its own last moment, and so on, and hence, dying is itself Eternity, and hence, in accordance with the theory of limits, one may approach death but can never reach it.

— From Flight into Darkness (Flucht in die Finsternis), 1931. A somewhat clinical but gripping tour of the mind of a man, Robert, who succumbs to a comprehensive “anxiety” that makes enemies (or so he imagines) of his fiancée, his brother, and casual acquaintances. Critics have suspected autobiographical relevance.

OK, not a poem! But a sort of prose-poem, perhaps — one riffing on Zeno’s dichotomy paradox.


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