I am always amazed when I go looking for something online and cannot find it. Surely in 2012 almost everything ever written has been digitized? Well not quite it seems. This is especially true of old poems. Over 20 years ago I found an anthology called Imagination’s Other Place. Poems of Science and Mathematics. My copy had been discarded from the local library. One poem in particular of that collection has never left me- it is a mysterious, incantatory piece by the American Anna Hempstead Branch (1875-1937). The mingling of images from Christian mysticism and Kabbalah, phrases both apocalyptic and hopeful, is irresistible, compelling. I offer it here- for the first time on the Web to inspire and delight, to fire the imagination and heal the heart.
MATHEMATICS OR THE GIFT OF TONGUES
This is the Word whose breaking heart
With fire restores the speech of men.
It falls upon all troubled thought
In snow-white flakes of love and pain.
There is no speech nor language where
His starry accents do not shine;
All ancient stories flame with Him
In ultimate design.
This is the pattern that shall save
The word and hearts of troubled men.
The Arithmetic God returns,
The Lord of Love returns again.
And all the hearts of all the earth
Are silvery bright with numberings
And their deep fountains sing with mirth,
Music of archangelic things.
The Word which is the marriage rite
When heaven and earth are joined in one,
This is the festival of light,
The wedding of the earth and sun.
All language breathes as does the Bride.
Its innocent splendor brightly burns.
This is the nuptial hour for now
The Arithmetic God returns.
His law goes out to all the earth,
The rhythmic law that once we knew.
This is the old creative power
That builds all things anew.
And all the tongues of all the earth
In which the Names of God are heard
Chant: All shall be as it was made.
In the Beginning was the Word.
He comes with planetary might,
He comes with pentecostal power,
And every heart with deep delight
Unfolds its number like a flower.
‘Round His strange bridals of delight
All starry alphabets await.
The Lord of geometric pride
Descends with passion and with state.
And I am changed with his embrace,
My flesh is bright with letterings,
The geometric shapes in which
His algebraic number sings.
I blossom like the Heavenly Rose
In which all words combine to be.
The thousand petals of my names
Dance in a starry ecstasy.
This is the Resurrected Lord
Whose flesh they broke with cruel pain.
The Mathematic Power returns,
The Lord of Love is whole again.
~ Anna Hempstead Branch (1875-1937)