The Scientist


Serious as a boy,
Attentive at lectures,
Rutherford became in his day
The high priest of molecular

Empiricism pays: the scientist
Would segregate and count
Specks in a speck of dust,
And atoms, not angels, on
a pin-point.

Under his supervision
Each in its place
The electrons took position
Like performing mice.

In the eye of their befriender
They almost sensed
The exultant and credulous wonder,
And they danced.

But he wanted no marionette:
Like a catechising of Christians
Rutherford took them apart,
Bombarded them with questions.

Aware of what he did,
Whom did he think to please?
Was it angel or demon that bade
Rutherford direct his gaze

Not to the star but the clod?
Was it to know God the better
He played God
To a microcosm of matter?

first published in Recent Poems (Caxton Press, 1941), © Denis Glover 1941, from Enter Without Knocking (Enlarged edition, Pegasus Press, 1971), used by permission of the Denis Glover Literary Estate. Recording from the Waiata New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive 1974.

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