The Death Of Euclid

A poem by R. C. Lehmann

"Euclid, we are told, is at last dead, after two thousand years of an immortality that he never much deserved." - The Times Literary Supplement.

A THRENODY for EUCLID! This is he
Who with his learning made our youth a waste,
Holding our souls in fee;
A god whose high-set crystal throne was based
Beyond the reach of tears,
Deeper than time and his relentless years!

Come then, ye Angle-Nymphs, and make lament;
Ye little Postulates, and all the throng
Of Definitions, with your heads besprent
In funeral ashes, ye who long
Worshipped the King and followed in his train;
For he is dead and cannot rise again.

Then from the shapes that beat their breasts and wept,
Soft to the light a gentle Problem stepped,
And, lo, her clinging robe she swiftly loosed
And with majestic hands her side produced:

"Sweet Theorem," she said, and called her mate,
"Sweet Theorem, be with me at this hour.
How oft together in a dear debate
We two bore witness to our Sovereign's power.
But he is dead and henceforth all our days
Are wrapped in gloom,
And we who never ceased to sing his praise
May weep our lord, but cannot call him from his tomb."

And, as they bowed their heads and to and fro
Wove in a mournful gait their web of woe,
Two sentinels forth came,
Their hearts aflame,
And moved behind the pair:
"Warders we are," they cried,
"Of these two sisters who were once so fair,
So joyous in their pride."
And now their massy shields they lifted high,
Embossed with letters three,
And, though a mist of tears bedimmed each eye,
The sorrowing Nymphs could see
Q., E. and F. on one, and on the other Q. E. D.

But on a sudden, with a hideous noise
Of joy and laughter rushed a rout of boys;
And all the mourners in affright
Scattered to left and right.
Problems and Theorems and Angles too,
Postulates, Definitions, Circles, Planes,
A jibbering crew,
With all their hoary gains
Of knowledge, from their monarch dead
Into the outer darkness shrieking fled.

And now with festal dance and laughter loud
Broke in the boyish and intruding crowd;
Nor did they fail,
Seeing that all the painful throng was sped,
To let high mirth prevail,
And raise the song of joy for EUCLID dead.

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