Sonnets

Sonnet composed for a special occasion;  my wife Linty wielded the silver spade.

On the Planting of Newton's Apple Tree, a genuine descendent from the original tree at Woolsthorpe Manor19th November 2001, at the Newton Institute

When Newton pondered 'neath the apple tree,

And hidden truths of Nature did discern,

Three universal laws he did decree

That those who seek might ever heed and learn;

There in the orchard did his mind take flight

O'er vistas wide, where only he could dare;

And to the planets having raised his sight,

Resolved their orbits through the inverse square.

 

This tree transported here from leafy glade

Of self-same strain that tasted Woolsthorpe's dew,

Well planted now through grace of silvered spade,

May stir th'enquiring mind to conquests new;

Symbol of arts well-nurtured at the root,

That may through budding genius harvest fruit.

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George Batchelor died on 30 March 2000.  His portrait by Rupert Shephard hangs in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics that he founded in 1959, and ruled as Head of Department until 1983, when I succeeded him. On 9th May 2004, we held a Reception in his honour,  when an area with planted bottlebrush trees (Callistemon) from his native Australia was dedicated to his memory. I composed this sonnet to fit the occasion:

 G K B

 

“I don’t quite understand …’’, he used to say

In questing tone to which we bent our ears

At Friday seminars in the old Room A,

The ones he’d never missed in fifty years;

 

“I don’t quite understand your line of thought

That leads you to these curves of rising slope

Which fail to go to zero as they ought;

Perhaps you’ve lost a sign, or so I hope!’’

 

The speaker, blanched and halted in his tracks,

Would stammer  “Well, I hadn’t noticed that”

(Thinking, O God, my theory’s full of cracks)

“Let’s leave these curves for later private chat”.

 

So then would G K B with patient tact

Convey the insight that the treatment lacked.

GKB_Portrait.jpg

Jill and John are dear neighbours who came to live in Banhams Close about ten years ago.  They held a little celebration of their marriage at an advanced age:  I wrote this sonnet to mark the occasion:

 Jill and John

 

The Cam meanders slow by Banhams Close,

Whose river path is lined with fragrant rose,

And gentle ripples with the sunlight play;

’Tis hither Jill and John have come to stay.

 

Where youth in slender craft bend to the oar,

And partnered swans above the river soar;

Where birds and budding shrubs rejoice in growth,

’Tis here that Jill and John have pledged their troth.

 

To tie the knot at three-score years and ten

Is scarce a task for feeble-hearted men;

And yet still more at three-score years and twenty

Takes courage, nerve and fortitude a-plenty.

 

Let us then drink these warm and heartfelt toasts: 

Great joy, good health, and blessings on our hosts.

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My 70th birthday was 12th April 2005.  A two-day meeting entitled "Turbulence, Twist and Treacle" was held to mark the occasion, at which were gathered a wonderful array of former students and colleagues.   I offered the following sonnet in my reply to the toast proposed by Nigel Weiss following  dinner in the Hall of Trinity College.

Threescore Years and Ten

 

Attaining thus my threescore years and ten

Remote from mother-land of hills and streams,

Long settled on this damp and windswept fen

And buried under stacks of unread reams,

I ruminate on work of decades past,

The depths of turbulent flows to understand,

To pluck some pebble from that ocean vast

Of truth that beckoned Newton from the strand.

 

From distant realms we’re gathered here to share

Perceptions of that mobile fluid state,

Whose universal laws hold us ensnared

In vortex knots we still can’t integrate!

Yet, struggling so, this truth we’ll soon discern:

 Through mutual teaching, we most haply learn.

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Le Château de Tennessus

where we stayed on the

Jour du Patrimoine 

17th September 2005

 

Whan that September with her mists hath sote 

The green-brown vales and meads of vieux Poitou,

Embraced by limpid waters of its moat,

There stands four-square the keep of Tennessus;

Flanked on both sides by machicolated towers,

Whence armed and mounted knights once sallied forth,

Inspired by maidens watching from their bowers, 

To jousting feats that proved their valiant worth. 

These ancient walls with roses now abound;

By day the massive portals stand ajar,

And by the bridge sits Tau, the faithful hound,

To welcome voyageurs from near and far.

As warms the château wall in morning sun,

Its gold-flecked flag proclaims proud Patrimoine.