JAMES CLERK-MAXWELL (1831–79)

The physicist James Clerk-Maxwell (1831–79), one of the most important scientists of the nineteenth century, gave the first account of electro-magnetism, and formulated the principles of thermodynamics.

‘Reflex Musings: Reflections from Various Surfaces’ (1853),
from L. Campbell and W. Garnett, The Life of James Clerk-Maxwell (1882).

April 15, 1853

In the dense entangled street,
Where the web of Trade is weaving,
Forms unknown in crowds I meet
Much of each and all believing;
Each his small designs achieving
Hurries on with restless feet,
While, through Fancy’s power deceiving,
Self in every form I greet.

Oft in yonder rocky dell
Neath the birches’ shadow seated,
I have watched the darksome well,
Where my stooping form, repeated,
Now advanced and now retreated
With the spring’s alternate swell,
Till destroyed before completed
As the big drops grew and fell.

By the hollow mountain-side
Questions strange I shout for ever,
While the echoes far and wide
Seem to mock my vain endeavour;
Still I shout, for though they never
Cast my borrowed voice aside,
Words from empty words they sever—
Words of Truth from words of Pride.
Yes, the faces in the crowd,
And the wakened echoes, glancing
From the mountain, rocky browed,
And the lights in water dancing—
Each my wandering sense entrancing,
Tells me back my thoughts aloud,
All the joys of Truth enhancing
Crushing all that makes me proud.

Last modified, 15-Jan-2002 .
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