Poetry and Philosophy

Bladders of Philosophy

Reason, an Ignis fatuus, in the Mind,

Which leaving light of Nature, sense behind;

Pathless and dang’rous wandring ways it takes,

Through errors Fenny-Boggs, and Thorny Brakes;

Whilst the misguided follower, climbs in pain,

Mountains of Whimsey, heap’d in his own Brain:

Stumbling from thought to thought, falls headlong down,

Into doubts boundless Sea, where like to drown,

Books bear him up awhile, and make him try,

To swim with Bladders of Philosophy…

~ John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, ‘Satyr on Mankind’, lines 12 – 21


Clip an Angel’s Wings

Do not all charms fly

At the mere touch of cold philosophy?

There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:

We know her woof, her texture; she is given

In the dull catalogue of common things.

Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,

Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,

Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine-

Unweave a rainbow.

~ John Keats, ‘Lamia’, pt. ii, lines 229 – 37


Divine Philosophy

How charming is divine philosophy!

Not harsh, and crabbed as dull fools suppose,

But musical as is Apollo’s lute,

And a perpetual feast of nectared sweets,

Where no crude surfeit reigns.

~ Milton, Comus, lines 475 – 9

Fingering Slave

Physician art thou? – one, all eyes,

Philosopher! – a fingering slave,

One that would peep and botanize

Upon his mother’s grave?

~ William Wordsworth, ‘A Poet’s Epitaph’ (1800), lines 17-20


The Lumber of the Schools

‘Tis you must put us in the Way;

Let us (for shame) no more be fed

With antique Reliques of the Dead,

The Gleanings of Philosophy,

Philosophy! the Lumber of the Schools…

~ Jonathan Swift, ‘Ode to Sir William Temple’, line 20


New Philosophy Calls All in Doubt

And new philosophy calls all in doubt,

And element of dire is quite put out;

The sun is lost, and th’ earth, and no man’s wit

Can well direct him where to look for it.

~ John Donne, ‘An Anatomy of the World: The First Aniversary’, lines 205 – 8

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