Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Uncovering the book--kind of like mining gems

Ever how long ago while teaching geology in our little homeschool, I ran across the title of a book that intrigued me.

The title? The Poetry of Geology.
Robert M. Hazen edited this little ninety-some page book back in 1982 but out of print now.

Hazen has written some easily accessible science books that I have used a reference materials and would not hesitate to use as spine texts (Science Matters and The Sciences: An Integrated Approach) including his The Joy of Science series from The Teaching Company.

So when I came across the title of Hazen's little poetry book, I thought, hummmm, poems about geology...what an interesting way to integrate subjects...this might be an interesting addition to otherwise dry lessons for the non-science literature-minded student.

The only problem was that the book, out of print like I said, was not even accessible to be bought used. Only three copies are available that I could find and they are all in the $60 range. Not feasible.

Still, I wanted that book. Or at least to see inside it. (Do you ever get a bee in your bonnet about finding some illusive resource?) So, I requested an interlibrary loan of it expecting no results. After all, if there are only three used copies "out there," just how likely is it that my little library will find it in its regional system?

About four days after turning in the interlibrary loan request form, the library called that a book was there for me. When I go by, I find The Poetry of Geology waiting for me. And guess from where it was loaned? The community college library up the road about 35 miles! Ha! I was delighted.

From the title page:

"Poetry is so closely connected with whatever is grand and beautiful, that there is hardly a science or an art
which does not possess more or less of it....Shall not geology, which is the first science in affording scope for the imagination, be brought into favor with the Muses, and afford themes for the Poet?"
(Edward Hitchcock, Jr. , 1849)

Some excerpts:

"The fountains of the earth are earthy pores,
The sweat and moisture of this globe exuding.
How various and unsteady in their sizes,
Contents and functions? Few are always pure,
But liquid fluids of many kinds they throw,
Sweet or impure, both cold and tepid, warm
Or hot; that gently rise, or bubbling boil,
Nay spout on high..."
(from "Mineral Springs" by C. S. Rafinesque)

"See where the ground in trembling fever quakes
And darts galvanic fires; the clouds of smoke
Ascend on high, the bolts to heaven fly
In all directions; Ashes fall like snow,
And scorch the ground; the burning lava boils,
Like melted iron flows, and desolation
Is spreading far: high hills arise, where none
Before had stood, while others fall or sink."
(from "Volcanoes" by C. S. Rafinesque)

"Of Feldspar and Quartz a large quantity take,
Then pepper with Mica, and mix up and bake.
This Granite for common occasions is good;
But, on Saint-days and Sundays, be it understood,
If with bishops and lords in the state room you dine,
Then sprinkle with Topaz, or else Tourmaline."
(from "Geological Cookery" by John Scarfe)


Charles Boewe said...

The lines attributed to C.S. Rafinesque 1783-1840) were indeed written and published by him, but the titles given here must have been devised by Hazen. Both passages are from Section IV, "The Earth And Moon," of Rafinesque's book-length Poem THE WORLD, OR INSTABILITY (Philadelphia, 1836), a poem of nearly 6,000 lines, plus prose notes and introduction by the author. The first passage quoted here is lines 792-799 and the second passage is lines 868-875.

Charles Boewe (Rafinesque's bibliographer & biographer)

sage said...

this sounds like an interesting collection of poetry--thanks for reviewing it