Works in the Herald 1937
SCIENTIFICALLY SPEAKING

Lines written after listening to a talk on the constitution of the atom broadcast by a visiting scientist.

Exulting in life's tussle,   
   I deem myself a man,   
A thing of brain and muscle     
   Built on a noble plan.
To vivify and warm me   
   Blood courses thro' each vein; 
My senses all inform me - 
   Via aforesaid brain -
That I am something real, 
   A thing to see and touch: 
That was an old ideal 
   I cherished much. 

But scientists who dote on - 
   In quite a learned way - 
The neutron and proton 
   Have something else to say. 
These two, they tell us (Drat 'em!) 
   With electrons on the side, 
All constitute the atom 
   (This fact is verified). 
And atoms make all matter 
   Of every shape and kind, 
Which does not seem to flatter 
   Poor humankind. 

And why? I'll tell you briefly:   
   I, you and Mr. Smith,   
Are built of matter chiefly, 
   And matter's but a myth. 
Atoms unite, or scatter. 
   But, scientists insist. 
Matter per se, as matter Simply does not exist. 
   We're nothing: only movement, 
Brain, muscle, bone, and thews.   
   I deem it small improvement on earlier views.

And, if we were bombarded 
   With electrons at high speed     
(Personally regarded 
   This is; most sad indeed) 
We could be changed to settle - 
   Transmuted in a tick   
Into, maybe, a metal, 
   A gas, or half a brick. 
Myself, I'd rather rue it, 
   For I am loth to go; 
But I'd dearly love to do it 
   To some I know.   

Yet, is there consolation: 
   Tho' we, as we, be gone. 
Despite all alteration 
   The protons carry on. 
And now, as I conceive it. 
   Eternity is here, 
Tho' you may not believe it, 
   Man cannot disappear. 
His substance they may squander, 
   But he shall never die. 
Where'er these protons wander 
   There, too, am I. 

But when I venture farther 
   I'm stumped; I own it, flat. 
These scientists are rather 
   Inclined to be like that. 
Now cosmic rays, they've stated  
   (Why can't they let things be?)  
Come in, and all's related 
   To Relativity! .... 
Yet when my atoms float on 
   To join some cosmic storm, 
May not one tiny proton 
   Preserve my norm?

"Den"
Herald, 25 August 1937 and The Courier-Mail, 18 September 1937, p22

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2010