Scientist and Poet

December 4, 2016

Above, Carl Sagan, Scientist as poet.

Below, Walt Whitman, poet and lover of science.

I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall
be complete,
The earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who
remains jagged and broken.

I swear there is no greatness or power that does not emulate
those of the earth,
There can be no theory of any account unless it corroborate the
theory of the earth,
No politics, song, religion, behavior, or what not, is of account,
unless it compare with the amplitude of the earth,
Unless it face the exactness, vitality, impartiality, rectitude of the

I swear I begin to see love with sweeter spasms than that which
responds love,
It is that which contains itself, which never invites and never

I swear I begin to see little or nothing in audible words,
All merges toward the presentation of the unspoken meanings
of the earth,
Toward him who sings the songs of the body and of the truths
of the earth,
Toward him who makes the dictionaries of words that print can-
not touch.

I swear I see what is better than to tell the best,
It is always to leave the best untold.

When I undertake to tell the best I find I cannot,
My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots,
My breath will not be obedient to its organs,
I become a dumb man.

~Walt Whitman


6 Responses to “Scientist and Poet”

  1. neilrieck Says:

    Too bad the Western peoples trying to win the battle for Fallujah (or anywhere else for that matter) are blissfully unaware of this video or Sagan’s thoughts.

    To all you people out there getting reading for Christmas-time celebrations, I wish to leave you with this provisional greeting: “Peace on Earth to Men of Good Will”.

  2. indy222 Says:

    Very moving and very beautiful. I’ve long used the Whitman poetry for my students, on the nature of science.

    I don’t find the “poetry” of our new Secretary of Defense nearly as beautiful

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Mattis’s “poetry” is perhaps not as “moving and beautiful”, but certainly relevant to mankind’s present state (and actually pretty much all of mankind’s history). The problem is that we need a DOD and a military and a Secretary in the first place—-neither Whitman or Sagan would likely have done as well as Mattis in speaking to the troops (and hopefully to the new power).

  3. Although the music grows too loud, this is still my favorite Pale Blue Dot…

  4. Jim Housman Says:

    I remember seeing this piece by Carl Sagen on TV so many years ago. As I recall the “pale blue dot” he refers to was an actual photograph of the Earth take by one of the early missions to outer planets which he names. I think the piece would be much stronger with that part included.

  5. ubrew12 Says:

    Sagan’s ‘pale blue dot’ episode book-ends an idea of human thought,
    the other end of which starts with ‘Space, the final frontier’…

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