Thursday, April 18, 2013

Truth and Beauty

     In both mathematics and poetry, truth and beauty are linked.  The true is likely to be beautiful, the beautiful is considered likely to be true.  
     Early in April I visited an interdisciplinary mathematics-and-literature class at Arcadia College to talk with them about some of the ways mathematics influences poetry.  The course I visited was was aptly titled "Truth and Beauty."  Thanks to Marion Cohen -- mathematician, poet, and course professor -- and to her students for the enjoyable time we had together.     
     Today, thinking back to that Arcadia class, I offer a translation of a poem by Romanian poet Marin Sorescu (1936-1996) which links the mathematics of counting to the literary god, Shakespeare.  Enjoy. 

Shakespeare     by Marin Sorescu

Shakespeare created the world in seven days.

On the first day he made the heavens, the mountains, and 
     the abyss of the soul.
On the second day he made rivers, seas, oceans
and all the other feelings -
giving them to Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony,
     Cleopatra and Ophelia,
Othello and the rest,
to master them, and their descendants
for ever more.
On the third day he brought the people together
and taught them about taste
the taste of happiness, of love, of despair
the taste of jealousy, of glory, and still more tastes
until they went through them all.

Then some latecomers arrived.
The creator patted them sadly on the head
explaining the remaining roles were for
literary critics
to challenge his good works.
the fourth and fifth days he kept clear for laughs
clearing way for clowns
turning somersaults,
and leaving the kings, emperors,
and other poor wretches to their fun.
The sixth day he reserved for administrative tasks:
He let loose a tempest
and taught King Lear
to wear a crown of straw.

Some spare parts remained from the world's creation
And so he made Richard III.
On the seventh day he looked about for something to do.
Theatre directors had plastered the land with posters
And Shakespeare decided after all his hard work
he deserved to see a show.

But first, tired down to the bone,
he went off to die a little.

This translation of Sorescu's poem appears in an recent anthology of wonderful Romanian poetry, Of Gentle Wolves (Calypso Editions, 2011)  -- translated and edited by Martin Woodside -- and I first found it in a Web Del Sol review by Ilya Kaminsky and Kathryn Farris.  The original Romanian version may be found here and another translation, by Constantin Roman, is available here.  I have included tranaslations of Sorescu's poems "The Reckoning" and "Omens" in previous postings.

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