A physicist loose among the liberal arts

Poetry is a conversation across the centuries

We begin with the famous line from Milton’s Paradise Lost:

That to the height of this great argument,
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.

To which A.E. Housman replied, in A Shropshire Lad [1]:

And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.

Apropos of a situation in which snark was required, Colin tweeted out a gender-neutral version of Milton’s line. I replied with a couplet of which I am inordinately proud:

You’d need a vat of malt, enough to swim in,
To justify the ways of God to women.

Yes, I did just put myself in that list.  Seriously, though, you have to click that link for Paradise Lost – it’s an e-book version created to look as much like a Renaissance English text as possible, and it is delightful.

[1] Housman, A.E., A Shropshire Lad, 1896.[back]


This will not faze them


Comments on The Dispossessed


  1. That is a worthy addition to the conversation.

  2. Thanks for that Paradise Lost link. It’s a very cool presentation.

    I always thought that the poet Terence in that Housman poem was of two conflicting opinions. The lines above are frequently quoted by people I know in beer enthusiast circles, but the pro-beer argument in those lines is pretty strongly countered by the rest of the poem, so maybe he’s just being sarcastic.

    But your contribution has revealed a third possible reading to me: “You have to be drunk to make sense of this world.”

  3. Joe

    Housman wrote a humorous parody of a Greek tragedy. Count that day lost in which nothing is learned. I’m glad to hear that he wrote light verse, too – living in shropshire-lad mode all the time would crush anyone’s spirit.

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