“The Windhover,” by G.M.Hopkins — The First Quantum Poem
In the late 19th Century, two hydrogen atoms fused on the surface of the sun. In doing so, they released photons, one of which traveled through space for eight minutes and landed on the wing of a bird on Planet Earth.
The impact of that solar photon on the wing released another photon, which traveled 100 yards and excited the retina in the eye of a beholder, which sent a weak electrochemical signal up his optic nerve to the brain where some very complex processes motivated the beholder to turn the sight into verbal expressions.
This started a cascade of energy down the beholder’s arm, signals firing from neuron to neuron, until the observer grasped a pen and made some symbols on paper.
Eventually, the paper was shown to a businessman, who did some numerical calculations and then ordered hot type to be set, and large presses to roll, and a book to be printed.
A century later, a young girl in a classroom opened the book, read the words, looked out the window, and saw a bird in flight. But this time, she saw the bird in a new light, through the eyes of a long-dead English poet/priest, Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins:
To Christ our Lord
I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, — the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.
From physics to metaphysics, beginning to end, quantum to cosmic, chaos to order, nothing’s not connected. That revelation may not explain the meaning of the universe, but it may hold out the promise of meaning within the universe. And that’s a start.
Text c 2019, Tom Mahon
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