On the New Physics

I/Blaise Pascal
“The silence of these infinite spaces frightens me:
The dark dissolves to numbered points and emptiness.
I’ve tried to write of it, but the imploding blank
Swallows what words I speak, absorbs the light I seek.
I prayed. I knelt, but the rings round the plafond shrank,
The stars withdrew. All things dissolve at my caress.”
His niece with swollen eyes lies flat, too ill to speak.
At last, the priest comes with his holy thorn to press
It to her cheek, while muttering hushed prayers of thanks.
When all that’s through, Pascal will trail him out, impressed
But turned in thought back to experiments with a tank
And pump that prove there is a nothing we can see.
II/Henry Adams
Within the twitching finger, no rhythm stirs the nerves;
Beneath the monastic mountain, the eternal atoms swerve.
The patterned carpet’s obverse, reveals a tangle of threads
No more wisely woven than the hair the body sheds.
I see machines in sunlight winding up the earth,
As if the prize of energy were an everlasting birth.
In every book I thumb through, at night beneath the lamp,
I feel the heavens’ dry wind, the grave’s retentive damp,
And know that we have outlived the play of light on stone,
To founder in the factory that rends sinew from the bone.
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