a Priestley sum

What we know of air is a Priestley sum;
makes an experimental masterpiece.
Through simple observation so we come
to learn from nature; wonders shall not cease:
that air might be exhausted then restored;
made stale and then repaired; broken then fixed.
Such are the problems science has explored,
mulled over, pondered on, and stood betwixt.
How so that the planet breathes, breath for breath,
exchanging one gas for another’s use?
How so that nature freshens the smell of death,
converts putrid soup into perfumed juice?
. Through unity all things are so divined.
. Make nothing separate as should be combined.

© Tim Grace, 25 November 2012


To the reader: Throughout life, Joseph Priestly (1733-1804) travelled an awkward, and often uncomfortable, path of self-discovery. A precocious child who absorbed knowledge with sponge-like thirst. A dissenting adult who, through deep faith, sought to unify humanity’s purposeful existence. A revered polymath constricted by dogma and intolerance; a disgruntled citizen. In sum, a brave soul who introduced the world to the deity of science and rational belief.

To the poet: Joseph Priestly was a great writer; a highly respected grammarian, alas it seems not a poet. My exposure to his masterful prosaic-skill was through his writing on the investigation of air; this kid knew how to write-up an experiment. The narrative style is intoxicating; refined and rugged… phlogisticated. The scientific brain exposed for his peers to pursue; and for all else to admire. Surely another canditate for membership of ‘The Science Class You Wish You Had…


2 thoughts on “a Priestley sum

    • Hi Cheryl… I hope I’ve done the man justice. He must have been interesting and very complex company; with learning (science, history, politics) his devotional duty. I enjoy the internal mechanics of poetry, nice to get your positive feedback. Cheers Tim.

      Liked by 1 person

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