Friday, March 20, 2009

Poetry Friday - Copernicus


I hold at last in hands too weak to turn
its pages my Of Revolutions. Now
I publish with impunity, allow
the Church her rage. All that's left to burn

now is a dead man, dry and senseless, curled
and crisp. Let Holy Church endure forever:
mortal though I am, without a lever
or a place to stand, I move the world.

I'm not sure exactly when I wrote this, since I don't seem to have a dated draft. I am sure that I wrote it soon after reading Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in the fall of 1977. From Kuhn I borrowed the legend that "the first printed copy of De revolutionibus was placed in his hands on the very day that he died, allowing him to take farewell of his life's work." (The full title of the book was De revolutionibus orbium coelestium [On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres.]) I also got the closing of the poem from Kuhn, either directly or inspired by something he wrote, playing off Archimedes' claim that he could move the world if given a lever and a place to stand. By this time I was deliberately writing poems on Biblical and religious subjects, intending to write a small book's worth of them, to be titled Quadragesima after the poem which started me on that track.