The Abacus and the Rose

2006-07-06

I recently had occasion to re-read Jacob Bronowski's little book Science and Human Values, which contains a pleasant if somewhat dated dialogue entitled "The Abacus and the Rose". I've always rather enjoyed the sonnet with which Bronowski ends the dialogue:

I, having built a house, reject
The feud of eye and intellect,
And find in my experience proof,
One pleasure runs from root to roof,
One thrust along a streamline arches
The sudden star, the budding larches.

The force that makes the winter grow
Its feathered hexagons of snow,
And drives the bee to match at home,
Their calculated honeycomb,
Is abacus and rose combined.
An icy sweetness fills my mind,

A sense that under thing and wing,
Lies, taut yet living, coiled, the spring.


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