Monday, February 10, 2014

To love, in perfect syllables

     While looking for Valentine verse with a math connection, I opened my copy of The Complete Illustrated Works of Lewis Carroll (Chancellor Press, 1982).  And found this one in which Carroll (a pen name for English mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodson (1832-1898)) uses the word one twice and the word half twice and has counted sounds so that in each line the number of syllables is either a cube of an integer or is perfect.

        Lesson in Latin     by Lewis Carroll    (May 1888)   

       Our Latin books, in motley row,
            Invite us to our task --
       Gay Horace, stately Cicero:

       Yet there's one verb, when once we know,
            No higher skill we ask:
       This ranks all other lore above --
       We've learned "'Amare' means 'to love'!" - 

       So, hour by hour, from flower to flower,
            We sip the sweets of Life:
       Till, all too soon, the clouds arise,
       And flaming cheeks and flashing eyes
            Proclaim the dawn of strife:
       With half a smile and half a sigh,
       "Amare! Bitter One!" we cry.

       Last night we owned, with looks forlorn,
            "Too well the scholar knows
       There is no rose without a thorn" --
       But peace is made! We sing, this morn,
            "No thorn without a rose!"
       Our Latin lesson is complete:
       We've learned that Love is Bitter-Sweet!               

Now we will count to twelve
And we will all keep still.
from "Keeping Quiet" -- in Extravagaria by Pablo Neruda, trans. Alastair Reid

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