The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 2/Number 6/Nature and the Philosopher

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This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

 


 

Nature and the Philosopher.

 

What dost thou here, pale chemist, with thy brow
Knotted with pains of thought, nigh hump-backed o'er
Thy alembics and thy stills? These garden-flowers,
Whose perfumes spice the balmy summer-air,
Teach us as well as thee. Thou dost condense
Healthy aromas into poison-drops,
Narcotic drugs of dangerous strength and power,—
And wines of paradise to thee become
Intoxicating essences of hell.
Cold crystallizer of the warm heaven's gold!
Thou rigorous analyst! thou subtile brain!
Gathering thought's sunshine to a focus heat
That blinds and burns and maddens! What, my friend!
Are we, then, salamanders? Do we live
A charmèd life? Do gases feed like air?
Pray you, pack up your crucibles and go!
Your statements are too awfully abstract;
Your logic strikes too near our warm tap-roots:
We shall breathe freer in our natural air
Of common sense. What are your gallipots
And Latin labels to this fresh bouquet?—
Friend, 'tis a pure June morning. Ask the bees,
The butterflies, the birds, the little girls.
We are after flowers. You are after—what?
Aconite, hellebore, pulsatilla, rheum.
Take them and go! and take your burning lens!
We dare not bask in the sun's genial beams
Drawn to that spear-like point. Truth comes and goes,
Life-giving in diffusion. Nature flows, extends,
And veils us with herself,—herself God's veil.
But you persist in opening your bladders,
And the three gases that compose the air
You bid us take a breath of, one by one.
For Mother Nature you should have respect:
She does not like these teasings and these jokes.
Philosopher you seem; you'd state all fair;
You would go deep and broad. You're right; but then
Forget not there's an outer to your inner,—
A whole that binds your parts,—a truth for man
As well as chemist,—and your lecture-room,
With magic vials and quaint essences
And odors strange, may teach your students less
Than this June morning, with the sun and flowers.