By: Valery Bryusov
May 9, 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.

Čiurlionis’s “The Past” (1907)

The days shall come of final desolation,
All of a sudden shall earth’s forces fail;
Then shall the last of wretched generations
Move to the South where sun and warmth

Our mighty towers, bastions and cities
Shall hear the dreaded voice of Judgement
Light shall not rise triumphant in the
No train shall thunder raise on its steel

Fine edifices shall be dimmed by ivy,
Grass weave a carpet over every stone,
Snake nests in city squares breed swarms
     of vipers,
In palaces shall lions make their home.

But in these days of final desolation
One man of courage shall exclaim: “I know!”
And he’ll disturb the sleep of old
And light upon their silent gloom he’ll

Wild beasts will hear upon the mossy
Man’s footsteps in the silence loud and
And on their hinges house-doors will be
And bright-lit rows of statues will appear.

Reading the names of markets and of
And from inscriptions learning who was
The inmost rooms of libraries he’ll enter
And bring our books’ old secrets into view.

And day and night he’ll anxiously go delving
Into our dusty prophesies of old,
Our search for truth, our dreams of God
     and heaven,
The songs in which the joys of earth we

My welcome friend of unknown future
You’re shaken by the past you gaze upon!
I beg you heed my message on these
I lived, I thought, and then… like mist, was

— An 1899 poem. Translated by Peter Tempest


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