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The six poems reflect contrasting responses by Blake, Tennyson, and four contemporary poets to the astonishing scientific discoveries made between the 18th and 21st centuries.
William Blake, from Auguries of Innocence
Blake attacked ‘The Atoms of Democritus’ and ‘Newton’s Particles of light’ as symbols of scientific materialism. He opposed what he saw as a barren rationalism with his own extraordinary visionary powers. He is the great anti-science poet of early Romanticism, while Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley all incorporated the science of their times into their own poetic visions of human progress.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92), stanzas from In Memoriam (stanza cxxiii)
The Victorian poet tried to come to terms with the new science of evolution and geological time in his great elegy for Arthur Hallam. (Cf stanza lvi: ‘So careful of the type?’ but no. / From scarped cliff and quarried stone /She cries, ‘A thousand types are gone: / I care for nothing, all shall go.’)
Also featured are contemporary poems about space and time, earth and the heavens, the enduring mysteries of life and death. Inclduing In the microscope by Miroslav Holub, It looks so simple from a distance by the distinguished American/British poet Anne Stevenson, Out There by Jamie McKendrick, from Dark Matter: Poems of Space and Fulcrum/Writing a World by David Morley, from Scientific Papers (Carcanet 2002).