Sunday, July 8, 2012

A scientific old poem, by Margaret Lucas Cavendish

Margaret Lucas Cavendish, 1650. Getty images

I was really surprised at reading Carol Rumens´ article for about this aristocrat lady, Margaret Lucas Cavendish, who was the duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Rumen says:

As an aristocrat, Cavendish was well-educated for a young woman of her period, and she later learned science and philosophy from her husband William and brother-in-law Charles. While much of 17th-century science is still at a relatively early stage of development, we cannot but be intrigued by the way her poem seems to foreshadow some of the discoveries of our own times: microscopic life-forms, atomic physics, fractals.(...) Cavendish demonstrates a truly scientific mind in that she makes no assertions. She uses "may" and "may be" throughout, rather than "are" and "is." At the same time she writes in a straightforward manner which suggests objectivity. "Nature is curious," she remarks in the middle (more or less) of the poem, and though she means "curious" in the sense of ingenious, we catch a whiff of Cavendish's own intellectual curiosity in that statement, and indeed throughout the poem.

Well, I never imagined a woman poet from SXVII writing like this:

Of many worlds in this world

Just like as in a nest of boxes round,
Degrees of sizes in each box are found.
So, in this world, may many others be
Thinner and less, and less still by degree:
Although they are not subject to our sense,
A world may be no bigger than two-pence.
Nature is curious, and such works may shape,
Which our dull senses easily escape:
For creatures, small as atoms, may be there,
If every one a creature's figure bear.
If atoms four, a world can make, then see
What several worlds might in an ear-ring be:
For millions of those atoms may be in
The head of one small, little, single pin.
And if thus small, then ladies may well wear
A world of worlds, as pendants in each ear.
Read the article in full:

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