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A Mathematical Problem Analysis

Author: Poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge Type: Poetry Views: 704

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Dear Brother,

I have often been surprized, that Mathematics, the quintessence of Truth, should have found admirers so few and so languid.--Frequent consideration and minute scrutiny have at length unravelled the cause--viz.--that though Reason is feasted, Imagination is starved; whilst Reason is luxuriating in it's proper Paradise, Imagination is wearily travelling on a dreary desart. To assist Reason by the stimulus of Imagination is the design of the following production. In the execution of it much may be objectionable. The verse (particularly in the introduction of the Ode) may be accused of unwarrantable liberties; but they are liberties equally homogeneal with the exactness of Mathematical disquisition, and the boldness of Pindaric daring. I have three strong champions to defend me against the attacks of Criticism: the Novelty, the Difficulty, and the Utility of the Work. I may justly plume myself, that I first have drawn the Nymph Mathesis from the visionary caves of Abstracted Idea, and caused her to unite with Harmony. The first-born of this Union I now present to you: with interested motives indeed--as I expect to receive in return the more valuable offspring of your Muse--

Thine ever,

S. T. C.

[Christ's Hospital,] March 31, 1791.

This is now--this was erst,

Proposition the first--and Problem the first.


On a given finite Line

Which must no way incline;

To describe an equi--

--lateral Tri--

--A, N, G, L, E.

Now let A. B.

Be the given line

Which must no way incline;

The great Mathematician

Makes this Requisition,

That we describe an Equi--

--lateral Tri--

--angle on it:

Aid us, Reason--aid us, Wit!


From the centre A. at the distance A. B.

Describe the circle B. C. D.

At the distance B. A. from B. the centre

The round A. C. E. to describe boldly venture.

(Third Postulate see.)

And from the point C.

In which the circles make a pother

Cutting and slashing one another,

Bid the straight lines a journeying go,

C. A., C. B. those lines will show.

To the points, which by A. B. are reckon'd,

And postulate the second

For Authority ye know.

A. B. C.

Triumphant shall be

An Equilateral Triangle,

Not Peter Pindar carp, not Zoilus can wrangle.


Because the point A. is the centre

Of the circular B. C. D.

And because the point B. is the centre

Of the circular A. C. E.

A. C. to A. B. and B. C. to B. A.

Harmoniously equal for ever must stay;

Then C. A. and B. C.

Both extend the kind hand

To the basis, A. B.

Unambitiously join'd in Equality's Band.

But to the same powers, when two powers are equal,

My mind forbodes the sequel;

My mind does some celestial impulse teach,

And equalises each to each.

Thus C. A. with B. C. strikes the same sure alliance,

That C. A. and B. C. had with A. B. before;

And in mutual affiance,

None attempting to soar

Above another,

The unanimous three

C. A. and B. C. and A. B.

All are equal, each to his brother,

Preserving the balance of power so true:

Ah! the like would the proud Autocratorix do!

At taxes impending not Britain would tremble,

Nor Prussia struggle her fear to dissemble;

Nor the Mah'met-sprung Wight,

The great Mussulman

Would stain his Divan

With Urine the soft-flowing daughter of Fright.


But rein your stallion in, too daring Nine!

Should Empires bloat the scientific line?

Or with dishevell'd hair all madly do ye run

For transport that your task is done?

For done it is--the cause is tried!

And Proposition, gentle Maid,

Who soothly ask'd stern Demonstration's aid,

Has prov'd her right, and A. B. C.

Of Angles three

Is shown to be of equal side;

And now our weary steed to rest in fine,

'Tis rais'd upon A. B. the straight, the given line.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

.: :.

Rich, I've been thinking futrher about your observation. You may not have the time, but would you be willing to do a little research for our class on Sunday? It'd be fun to hear your response to this question: What is modern science as explained by M. Waldman, and how does it differ from the theories of Agrippa and the other scientists Victor studies in his youth? Nothing too long, but just give us a sense of the difference between the Occult and physical sciences. That is, if you're inclined and have the time!

| Posted on 2014-03-04 | by a guest

.: :.

The cheering may be sinlet, but it's still there. We love you Adam. You really can do this. And by plugging away, you're giving many some much-needed inspiration. Keep at it, even through the plateau, because this slow period won't last forever. You're doing great! x x

| Posted on 2014-03-03 | by a guest

.: :.

Marsha, well, I reread The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It was worth it! I'd foergtton so much of it. However, I don't have much to add to my earlier post. Here's a tidbit: Mary Shelley recalls having heard Coleridge recite the Rime when she was nine years old, so clearly it made quite an impression on her! I think one way to make the comparison, generally speaking, between Frankenstein and the mariner, is to say that they both are forced to roam the earth telling their story as a form of penance. Hence, they are both driven and haunted by their past. Some of the lines that I'd foergtton were in the Rime are toward the end: He prayeth best, who loveth best/All things both great and small;/ For the dear God who loveth us,/ He made and loveth all. (lns. 615-19)

| Posted on 2014-03-03 | by a guest

.: :.

Nice observation, Rich. That asepct of last Sunday's conversation, the whole galvanization piece we touched on, is something that really intrigues me. The great Carl Jung did lots of research into alchemy, mining these ancient tomes, as well as ancient gnostic texts, for psychological and spiritual insights. As far as its role in the novel, it seems important to note that Victor switches his devotion from Agrippa to the more respectable sciences while at Ingolstadt, as his professors found Agrippa to be nonsense. It's only as Victor gives up his prejudices again modern chemists that his education takes off. Then, as he pursues such natural philosophy (science), he ends up burning with the Promethean desire to bestow animation upon lifeless matter (1.3). I guess I'm saying that I agree that this is a cautionary tale about pushing the boundaries of knowledge, but I'm not so sure that the tension lies so much between the occult and the physical sciences as somewhere else that's harder to name perhaps. Still, you're right on target, I think, with Frankenstein being a cautionary tale.

| Posted on 2014-03-03 | by a guest

.: :.

There is a shift when the speaker changes from speaking about only math to speaking about how mathematicians cannot even dispute with math (hinting that they become controlled by it). There is another shift where the speaker begins to talk about very unrelated issues such as the government which shows that the speaker is becoming slightly frazzled by the complicated subject of geometry.

| Posted on 2011-04-27 | by a guest

.: :.

I love this poem, it is giving math the imagination. Math needs some...fun. This is a wonderful poem showing how math can be!

| Posted on 2010-09-09 | by a guest

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