Darwin-L Message Log 2:144 (October 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.

<2:144>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu  Thu Oct 28 21:45:07 1993

Date: Thu, 28 Oct 1993 22:51:18 -0400 (EDT)
From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu
Subject: Siegfried Sassoon on the historical sciences
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Organization: University of NC at Greensboro

I came across this poem by the English poet Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) this
evening, and thought some people might enjoy it.  To my amateur ear the first
stanza is clearly the best.  If anyone happens to have any other favorite
literary commentaries on the historical sciences I would be glad to hear of
them (feel free to post extracts if you like).  I find texts of this sort to
be very valuable in teaching because they can give beginning students an
imaginative feeling for a subject that they don't necessarily get from more
techinical works, and at the same time these works can illustrate for more
advanced students some of the cultural relations of the historical sciences.


Slowly the daylight left our listening faces.

Professor Brown with level baritone
Discoursed into the dusk.
      Five thousand years
He guided us through scientific spaces
Of excavated History, till his lone
Roads of research grew blurred; and in our ears
Time was the rumoured tongues of vanished races,
And Thought a chartless Age of Ice and Stone.

The story ended: and the darkened air
Flowered while he lit his pipe; an aureole glowed
Enwreathed with smoke: the moment's match-light showed
His rosy face, broad brow, and smooth grey hair,
Backed by the crowded book-shelves.
      In his wake
An archaeologist began to make
Assumptions about aqueducts (he quoted
Professor Sandstorm's book); and soon they floated
Through dessicated forests; mangled myths;
And argued easily round megaliths.

Beyond the college garden something glinted;
A copper moon climbed clear above black trees.
Some Lydian coin?...Professor Brown agrees
That copper coins were in that culture minted.
But, as her whitening way aloft she took,
I thought she had a pre-dynastic look.

Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner

Robert J. O'Hara (darwin@iris.uncg.edu)
Center for Critical Inquiry and Department of Biology
100 Foust Building, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A.

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