Equant & Deferent

razor
A reproduction of a 1300s razor by Tod Cutler

Equant & Deferent

The ancient Greeks were pretty clever,
Worked out that the Earth was round
From shadows cast by poles at noon
And by the earth upon the Moon,
And how the sky was put together
Just from watching from the ground,
And some who guessed a central Sun
About which all the planets run.

But then along came Aristotle,
Then along came Ptolemy –
And they alone would set the tone
Till their mistakes were set in stone.
The hand is dead, but still can throttle,
Piously and solemnly,
Of any thought that might get out –
So hush the whisper, choke the doubt.

But still, but still,
The more we looked, the more we saw –
The though the heavens mostly draw
Upon the Ptolemaic law,
They sometimes would exert their will
That rubbed enquiring watchers raw.

You see, the ancient Greeks well knew
That crystal dome and ev’ry gem
That all the night, without a rest,
Would wheel above from East to West.
And like the stars, the planets, too –
Though slower, losing ground on them.
Except…well, that’s where trouble lies,
With yearly yet unruly skies.

Because they each would switch their motion,
With the stars, and overtaking !
Week by week, the Greeks would trace
The way the planets dance and race.
So Ptolemy proposed a notion,
Saved the universe from breaking –
Sure it was all fudge and spin,
But epicyles for the win !

But here’s the thing –
For all its complex shells and reels,
For all its windmills within wheels,
It somehow kinda always deals
With accurate positioning,
As though the sums would guide their heels.

So if the Greeks were badly off,
Well, spare that scoff – they did their best
With nothing but a pair of eyes
To theorise what they can’t test.
But did they ever pinch their gaze
And mutter at the tangled ways
In which the heavens spend their days ?
Did even Ptolemy have doubt
And long to hack the deadwood out ?

The Romans, though they changed the names
(So Krios now Aries, and Ares now Mars),
They kept the skies just as before,
For fourteen hundred years or more.
And though the planets’ little games
Were thought as written in the stars –
A monk proposed a new appraiser,
Slashing bunkum with his razor.

Simple answers, they’re what matter !
Less is more than meets the eye –
If two proposals have to fight,
The simplest one is often right.
And all those epicycles clatter
With a clean, efficient sky –
Forget the Church and ancient stuff,
Copernicus has had enough !

And yet, and yet,
Despite his perfect circles round
His central sun, we quickly found
Like Ptolemy’s, they ran aground,
Till Kepler and ellipses met –
And suddenly, the maths was sound.

Truth be told, Copernicus
Had little proof on which to base
His unbound Earth and steadfast Sun –
In faith alone, his planets spun.
But still the world must turn, and thus,
Young Galileo took his place –
Perhaps with fewer facts than hope,
But this time with a telescope.

And in the eyepiece, clear as night,
The moons of Jupiter were seen –
As though the planet gave them birth –
And not in orbit round the Earth !
And better yet, the startling sight
Of Venus phasing inbetween
A smaller full and larger new –
And then the revolution flew !

So here’s the thing –
With claims of modern matter dark,
And energy with unseen spark –
Has it the proof of string and quark ?
Or do they chase around a ring
To make the model fit the mark ?

And like Copernicus, they could be right,
Despite a lack of evidence.
Or like old Ptolemy, they could be wrong,
Yet strong in their defence –
His theory held up, truth to tell,
In matching observations well –
But oh, it was a complex hell !
So scientists, and heaven-gazers,
Never lose your sharpest razors !

No Man’s Pie is Freed from his Ambitious Finger

tudor heads
Carved heads in the Great Hall at Hampton Court by Richard Rydge, photographed by little_miss_sunnydale

 

No Man’s Pie is Freed from his Ambitious Finger

The Tudors – always the bloody Tudors !
I’m sick of the Tudors, sick of their tricks –
Bloody Marys and bloody Henrys,
And bloody Bess and her politics,
And wimpy Eddy, and snow-white Jane –
Tudors bloody Tudors – since I was six.
Papists in priestholes, Proddies in the Tower
And the heroes end up dead and the villains stay in power.

Ev’ryone’s a bastard,
Anyone who’s Tudor –
Henry’s shagging ev’ryone,
But Bess, no-one has screwed her.
Both have shafted England,
Made the whole place prude-er.

The Tudors: bloody Tyndale and Shakespeare,
The bloody Armada and Raleigh and Drake,
The bloody plots and the bloody spies,
And witches burned at the bloody stake,
And Irish, Jews and Gypsies shunned –
Nasty bloody Tudors – more than I can take !
Monks changing habits and monarchs swapping spouses –
A-ring-a-ring of roses and a plague on all their houses !

Ev’ryone’s a bastard,
Ev’ryone’s a bluff:
Ev’ryone in sackcloth,
Or codpiece, hose and ruff.
Who will spare our England
Once we’ve had enough ?

 

 

Spectacles

spectacles
The Glasses Apostle by Conrad von Soest

 

Spectacles

Strange to think,
How we used to blink and grope our way
Through the blurry day,
Our vision out-of-sync.

Ever since the needle was invented,
How the squinters were tormented
Without sharpness to apply
The thread into the eye.

But then, and just in time for printing,
Came the perfect cure for squinting –
All was focused once again,
From furthest hills to finest grain.

Of all our labour-saving friends,
I say the lens is friendliest of all –
It works so simple, cheap and small –
Such humble, perfect skill !

And yet so mighty, how it bends
All light unto its will !
To let us see, when genes and wear
Would waste our rods and blank our stare –

 

 

Armageddon Hedonism

Pandemonium
Pandemonium by John Martin

 

Armageddon Hedonism

All aboard for the End of Days,
When kingdoms drown and cities blaze.
See stars burn out and worlds collide,
As the dead shall walk and the damned shall ride !
I’ll see you all at the bitter end,
When gods take arms and fates entwine.
We’re six-six-six for nil, my friend,
Let’s party like it’s ninety-nine !
The long goodbye, the last farewell:
I’ll see you all on the Road to Hell !

Fires to the North and fighting to the South,
The time has come, the Walrus said, and gently dabbed his mouth.
Famine to the West, and plague upon the East –
The Quick comingle with the Dead, the Angel with the Beast.
Penitents shall weep and moan –
Some prayers pleaded, others hurled.
We’re all for one and all alone,
So step right up for the End of the World !

Roll up !  Roll up for Ragnarok !
For hark !  There raps the Reaper’s knock.
Our hours are short, our time is come,
I hear the trumpet and the drum.
I’ll see you all on Judgement Day,
When gods lay bets and futures mix.
We’re thirty-coins-per-soul, they say –
Keep tuppence back to cross the Styx.
We’re three-score-ten before the tomb:
I’ll see you all at the Gates to Doom !

Chaos to the left and jokers to the right,
The wind of Thor is blowing cold, the Morningstar is bright.
Shouting to the front and screaming to the rear –
The Saved shall ally with the Sold, the Comrade with the Clear.
Penitents shall beg and curse –
Some prosaic, some sublime.
It’s goodnight to the Universe,
And set your clocks for the End of Time !

 

 

The Voyage of the Novum Organum

frontispiece
frontispiece from Novum Organum Scientiarum by Francis Bacon, art by anon

 

The Voyage of the Novum Organum

’Twas in the summer of ’20
When our galleon set sale.
Now gather ye, and plenty,
As I lay the fearless tale:
We soon approached the pillars bold
That Hercules himself, we’re told,
Had planted, so’s to say “Behold !
Behold these sights, and quail !
Here lies the End of the Earth, my friends,
And who knows what may lie beyond ?
It’s time to find what you’re worth, my friends,
If dareꞌst ye leave your pond.
Will you view my gates as a warning ?
Then head for home on the turning tide.
Or will you view my gates as a dawning ?
Then pass on through to the other side !”

Who knows if God shall forsake us ?
Who knows where the currents take us ?
Over the seas on our questing quest:
With our fortunes pressed for the holy grail,
As on and on we sail.

So wise old Captain Bacon
Gave the word to pass on through.
We prayed he weren’t mistaken
And a-gambling with his crew.
We sailed betwixt those ancient piers,
And set a course for new frontiers.
Once Argonauts, now pioneers !
’Twas time to earn our due.
“There lies the Start of the Earth, my friends,
When we find out what lies ahead !
It’s time to give rebirth, my friends,
It’s time to raise the dead !”

We knew great riches would await us,
All our maps were full of exes !
We dug up booty with apparatus,
And unearthed keys to fresh complexes.

Follow the clues, be smart and plucky;
Here be dragons, if we’re lucky !
Over the seas on our questing quest:
The better we guessed, the more we unveiled,
As on and on we sailed.

We plumbed that deep wide ocean
So’s to chart her reefs and bars
The first we found was motion –
It was written in the stars !
Then spied we microscopic forms –
A hidden world of tiny swarms.
We shuddered, but we rode such storms,
And better for the scars.
There lies so much joy on this Earth, my friends –
Let’s find out what we share her with !
There’s nowhere upon her in dearth, my friends –
She’s always more to give !
We sailed upon her seas of numbers,
Fathomed her amounts amounting:
Formulas and patterns slumbered –
Ev’rything, we learned, was counting.

And the point where the limit of our learning meets,
There’s always a fair wind filling our sheets.
Over the seas on our questing quest:
The more we professed, the more we regaled,
As on and on we sailed.

The further out our striving,
So the better stocked our stores.
And always we’re arriving
Onto ever-stranger shores.
And on those lands we took our drills
And tapped the streams and dug the hills
And set down bridges, rails and mills,
And just and noble laws.
We learned how the whole of the Earth, my friends,
Is built from the same few blocks, not more !
We learned how the life round her girth, my friends,
Is built from life before !
We sailed away to explore and learn,
And still there is so much more to find !
We know we can never again return
To that ancient world that we left behind.

We’ll never be bored and we’ll never be done;
We’ll never arrive at the setting sun.
Over the seas on our questing quest:
The more we progress, the higher we scale,
As on and on we sail.

 

 

The Land of the Saints

Cornubia
Cornubia by John Miller

 

     The Land of the Saints

They’re pious in Cornwall, or proud, or just quaint,
Sennan and Bryvyth, Morwetha and Cleer
They name half their villages after a saint;
Piran and Tudy, Winwillo, Gwinear
Not many Marys or Peters or Pauls,
Nevet and Probus, Mabena and Breock
For ev’ry Saint Helen’s we find a Saint Mawes.
Leven and Cuby, Wennapa and Feock
Our corporate saints have been roundly withstood,
Sithney and Breward, Lalluwy and Ruan
For theirs are so local, old Cornish done good.
Mylor and Sancreed, Illogan and Mewan

 

I’m sure I’m getting the emphasis wrong on some of these names, but that’s the beauty of English – anything goes, and my mispronunciation is just as valid as yours, especially when you definitely have never heard of these names before.  And yes, they’re Cornish, not English, but consider them now Anglisised.  And yes, I did just spell Anglisised with two esses – deal with it.

 

Kosher Insecta

fried beetles

 

Kosher Insecta

“…all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.”
                                                                                                            Leviticus, chapter 11, verse 23

Chow down on the damselflies,
Munch upon their crop –
Bite upon their compound eyes
Until you feel them pop.
Scoff on moths and feast on ’wigs,
Or ’skaters, ’skeeters, whirligigs –
Aphids served up by the dish
With ladybirds and silverfish.

Count the legs to know the score.
If six apiece, our bugs are pure.

Chomp upon the wasp when ripe
And pluck each silky wing,
Chew upon its barley-stripe
And suck its juicy sting.
Scarabs sate the palate well,
Just don’t forget to crack the shell –
Maggots taste so sweet and young,
When slowly melting on the tongue.

Count each foot and thigh and shin –
When legs are six, we never sin.

But locusts and crickets
All look like they’ve rickets
With bandy gert hindlegs for springing around.
And mantids, you’re saying
Have forelimbs for praying.
But all use all six when they creep on the ground.
And fleas, if you please, walk the hexa-gait too –
(At least, in the circus they do.)

So count each leg, each gnat and bee –
For six is fit anatomy !

*****

But feast not on the mutants,
The foul four-leggèd mutants !
Such creeping fowls thou shalt not eat,
With legs above their feet.

Beware the peacock butterfly !
I beg you, chase them from your homes –
Don’t let these devils flutter by,
With four-leg legs and foreleg combs.

Then feast not on the mutants,
These foul four-leggèd mutants !
Count the limbs in which they’re clad –
Six legs good, four legs bad.

And I heard of some bats in New Zealand
Who go on all fours on the floor
Their wings get tucked up, and each free hand
Is def’nit’ly walked on, for sure !

So shout it out to congregations –
None shall taste abominations !
Heresies thou shalt not eat
With legs above their feet

So gather, gather for the feast
Of insects, great and small.
They’re pure and kosher, ev’ry beast –
Six-leggèd, one and all !