by Clarence R. Wylie Jr.
Last modified 11 Mar 2014, 16:00-0400

[This poem was supplied by James Stafford, who writes: "This poem first appeared in the 1948 July issue of Scientific Monthly, and then as a frontispiece for The Anatomy of Mathematics by Kershner and Wilcox, 1950."]

For reasons that are unknown to me, for perhaps several months, ending abruptly on 29 Dec 2013, this poem was the most popular of all the poems on my web site. But almost all of the hits came from only one country: Ukraine. If you know the reason for this, I would be most appreciative if you would explain it in the box below. Thanks, Mike.

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Not truth, nor certainty. These I foreswore
In my novitiate, as young men called
To holy orders must abjure the world.
"If… then…", this only I assert;
And my successes are but pretty chains
Linking twin doubts, for it is vain to ask
If what I postulate be justified,
Or what I prove possess the stamp of fact.

Yet bridges stand, and men no longer crawl
In two dimensions. And such triumphs stem
In no small measure from the power this game,
Played with the thrice-attenuated shades
Of things, has over their originals.
How frail the wand, but how profound the spell!