Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Chemistry Lessons and John Donne

I'm preparing another chemistry lecture, and I keep coming back to John Donne. It may seem strange, but it's all connected in my head. I suspected the Bridgid in Cyberspace celebrants might find the final couplet of Donne poem Love's Alchemy a little, well, misogynistic, so I went with a The Relic (equally strange and blasphemous in its own way). But my reading lately has included some history of chemistry, including its early roots in alchemy. Here's Donne's chemistry connection:

Some that have deeper digg'd love's mine than I,
Say, where his centric happiness doth lie.
        I have loved, and got, and told,
But should I love, get, tell, till I were old,
I should not find that hidden mystery.
        O! 'tis imposture all ;
And as no chemic yet th' elixir got,
        But glorifies his pregnant pot,
        If by the way to him befall
Some odoriferous thing, or medicinal,
    So, lovers dream a rich and long delight,
    But get a winter-seeming summer's night.

Our ease, our thrift, our honour, and our day,
Shall we for this vain bubble's shadow pay?
        Ends love in this, that my man
Can be as happy as I can, if he can
Endure the short scorn of a bridegroom's play?
        That loving wretch that swears,
'Tis not the bodies marry, but the minds,
        Which he in her angelic finds,
        Would swear as justly, that he hears,
In that day's rude hoarse minstrelsy, the spheres.
    Hope not for mind in women ; at their best,
    Sweetness and wit they are, but mummy, possess'd.

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