Poetry in Logicomix

Read the extract from Percy Bysse Shelley’s Alastor and WB Yeats’ The Second Coming to contrast the different perspectives of the world as experienced in the life story of Russell in Logicomix.

Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude [extract]


Nondum amabam, et amare amabam, quaerebam quid amarem, amans amare.—
Confess. St. August. [
trans. I have loved not yet, yet I loved to love; I sought what I might love, loving to love]

Earth, ocean, air, belovèd brotherhood!

If our great Mother has imbued my soul

With aught of natural piety to feel

Your love, and recompense the boon with mine;

If dewy morn, and odorous noon, and even,

With sunset and its gorgeous ministers,

And solemn midnight’s tingling silentness;

If autumn’s hollow sighs in the sere wood,

And winter robing with pure snow and crowns

Of starry ice the grey grass and bare boughs;

If spring’s voluptuous pantings when she breathes

Her first sweet kisses, have been dear to me;

If no bright bird, insect, or gentle beast

I consciously have injured, but still loved

And cherished these my kindred; then forgive

This boast, belovèd brethren, and withdraw

No portion of your wonted favour now!

Mother of this unfathomable world!

Favour my solemn song, for I have loved

Thee ever, and thee only; I have watched

Thy shadow, and the darkness of thy steps,

And my heart ever gazes on the depth

Of thy deep mysteries. I have made my bed

In charnels and on coffins, where black death

Keeps record of the trophies won from thee,

Hoping to still these obstinate questionings

Of thee and thine, by forcing some lone ghost

Thy messenger, to render up the tale

Of what we are. In lone and silent hours,

When night makes a weird sound of its own stillness,

Like an inspired and desperate alchymist

Staking his very life on some dark hope,

Have I mixed awful talk and asking looks

With my most innocent love, until strange tears

Uniting with those breathless kisses, made

Such magic as compels the charmèd night

To render up thy charge:…and, though ne’er yet

Thou hast unveiled thy inmost sanctuary,

Enough from incommunicable dream,

And twilight phantasms, and deep noon-day thought,

Has shone within me, that serenely now

And moveless, as a long-forgotten lyre

Suspended in the solitary dome

Of some mysterious and deserted fane,

I wait thy breath, Great Parent, that my strain

May modulate with murmurs of the air,

And motions of the forests and the sea,

And voice of living beings, and woven hymns

Of night and day, and the deep heart of man.


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)


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