Friday, October 28, 2011

Music on the hypotenuse

Dr. Cai Tianxin is a professor of mathematics (specializing in number theory) at Zhejiang University, China. He also is an accomplished and  well-known poet.

   The Number and the Rose     by Cai Tianxin 

   Pythagoras played music on the hypotenuse
   while devising the system of rational numbers  
   a labyrinth as transparent as quartz
   his home was on Samos on the Aegean Sea
   as a child he never wanted to be a sailor
   nor was he ever enticed by the beautiful girls of Salonika
   numbers were the treasured roses of his heart
   those crimson, orange, yellow, or pure white flowers
   were the perfect expressions of his unequalled mind
   urging him to write his famous assertion “all things are numbers”
   Leonardo once, in Florence, devoted himself to this principle
   neglecting the charms of the young beauty Genevra
   finally giving up for reasons we don’t know

The original Chinese version of "The Number and the Rose" is available here; the poem is found in Cai Tianxin's book Song of the Quiet Life , translated by Robert Berold and the poet (Deep South, South Africa, 2006).   The poet's article "Mathematicians and Poets" (appearing, in translation, in the April 2011 issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society) was noted in this blog's posting on 18 March 2011.

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The Halloween season is, of course, upon us. 
For "Ghost Stories Written" by Charles Simic, visit the post for 29 October 2010.

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