James Clerk Maxwell

Here you will find the Long Poem A Vision of a Wrangler, of a University, of Pedantry, and of Philosophy of poet James Clerk Maxwell

A Vision of a Wrangler, of a University, of Pedantry, and of Philosophy

Deep St. Mary's bell had sounded, 
And the twelve notes gently rounded 
Endless chimneys that surrounded 
My abode in Trinity. 
(Letter G, Old Court, South Attics), 
I shut up my mathematics, 
That confounded hydrostatics -- 
Sink it in the deepest sea!

In the grate the flickering embers 
Served to show how dull November?s 
Fogs had stamped my torpid members, 
Like a plucked and skinny goose. 
And as I prepared for bed, I 
Asked myself with voice unsteady, 
If of all the stuff I read, I 
Ever made the slightest use. 

Late to bed and early rising, 
Ever luxury despising, 
Ever training, never "sizing," 
I have suffered with the rest. 
Yellow cheek and forehead ruddy, 
Memory confused and muddy, 
These are the effects of study 
Of a subject so unblest.

Look beyond, and see the wrangler, 
Now become a College dangler, 
Court some spiritual angler, 
Nibbling at his golden bait. 
Hear him silence restive Reason, 
Her advice is out of season, 
While her lord is plotting treason 
Gainst himself, and Church or State.

See him next with place and pension, 
And the very best intention 
Of upholding that Convention 
Under which his fortunes rose. 
Every scruple is rejected, 
With his cherished schemes connected, 
"Higher Powers may be neglected -- 
His result no further goes."

Much he lauds the education 
Which has raised to lofty station, 
Men, whose powers of calculation 
Calculation?s self defied. 
How the learned fool would wonder 
Were he now to see his blunder, 
When he put his reason under 
The control of worldly Pride.

Thus I muttered, very seedy, 
Husky was my throat, and reedy; 
And no wonder, for indeed I 
Now had caught a dreadful cold. 
Thickest fog had settled slowly 
Round the candle, burning lowly, 
Round the fire, where melancholy 
Traced retreating hills of gold.

Still those papers lay before me -- 
Problems made express to bore me, 
When a silent change came o?er me, 
In my hard uneasy chair. 
Fire and fog, and candle faded, 
Spectral forms the room invaded, 
Little creatures, that paraded 
On the problems lying there.

Fathers there, of every college, 
Led the glorious ranks of knowledge, 
Men, whose virtues all acknowledge 
Levied the proctorial fines; 
There the modest Moderators, 
Set apart as arbitrators 
?Twixt contending calculators, 
Scrutinised the trembling lines.

All the costly apparatus, 
That is meant to elevate us 
To the intellectual status 
Necessary for degrees -- 
College tutors -- private coaches -- 
Line the Senate-house approaches. 
If our Alma Mater dote, she?s 
Taken care of well by these.

Much I doubted if the vision 
Were the simple repetition 
Of the statements of Commission, 
Strangely jumbled, oddly placed. 
When an awful form ascended, 
And with cruel words defended 
Those abuses that offended 
My unsanctioned private taste. 

Angular in form and feature, 
Unlike any earthly creature, 
She had properties to meet your 
Eye whatever you might view. 
Hair of pens and skin of paper; 
Breath, not breath but chemic vapour; 
Dress, -- such dress as College Draper 
Fashions with precision due.

Eyes of glass, with optic axes 
Twisting rays of light as flax is 
Twisted, while the Parallax is 
Made to show the real size. 
Primary and secondary 
Focal lines in planes contrary, 
Sum up all that's known to vary 
In those dull, unmeaning eyes.

Such the eyes, through which all Nature 
Seems reduced to meaner stature. 
If you had them you would hate your 
Symbolising sense of sight. 
Seeing planets in their courses 
Thick beset with arrowy "forces," 
While the common eye no more sees 
Than their mild and quiet light.

"Son," she said (what could be queerer 
Than thus tête-à-tête to hear her 
Talk, in tones approaching nearer 
To a saw's than aught beside? 
For the voice the spectre spoke in 
Might be known by many a token 
To proceed from metal, broken 
When acoustic tricks were tried.

Little pleased to hear the Siren 
"Own" me thus with voice of iron, 
I had thoughts of just retiring 
From a mother such a fright). 
"No," she said, "the time is pressing, 
So before I give my blessing, 
I?ll excuse you from confessing 
What you thought of me to-night.

"Powers!" she cried, with hoarse devotion, 
"Give my son the clearest notion 
How to compass sure promotion, 
And take care of Number One. 
Let his college course be pleasant, 
Let him ever, as at present, 
Seem to have read what he hasn't, 
And to do what can?t be done.

Of the Philosophic Spirit 
Richly may my son inherit; 
As for Poetry, inter it 
With the myths of o