11
Oct
07

The Astronomer’s Drinking Song

This is a delightful drinking song from the old Mathematical Society of London, which seems to have been sung at a meeting around 1800. It was published in “A Budget of Paradoxes” by Augustus de Morgan. (1806-1871) who was a mathematician of considerable merit, a brilliant and influential teacher, a founder, with Geroge Boole, a symbolic logic as is developed in England, a writer of many book, an indefatigable contributor to encyclopedias, magazines and learned journals.

He was an uncompromising advocate of religious liberty and free expression, an insatiable collector of curious lore, anecdotes, quaint, and perverse opinions, paradoxes, puzzles, riddles and puns; a bibliomaniac, a wit and polemicist, a detester of hypocrisy and sordid motive, an impolitic, independent, crotchety, overworked, lovable, friendly and contentious Englishman.

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Whoe’er would search the starry sky,
Its secrets to divine, sir,
Should take his glass – I mean, should try
A glass or two of wine, sir!
True virtue lies in golden mean,
And man must wet his clay, sir,
Join these two maxims, and ’tis seen
He should drink his bottle a day, sir!

Old Archimedes, reverend sage!
By trump of fame renowned, sir,
Deep problems solved in every page,
And the sphere’s curved surface found, sir:
Himself he would have far outshone,
And borne a wider sway, sir,
Had he our modern secret known,
And drank a bottle a day, sir!

When Ptolemy, now long ago,
Believed the earth stood still, sir,
He never would have blundered so,
Had he but drunk his fill, sir:
He’d then have felt it circulate,
And would have learnt to say, sir,
The true way to investigate
Is to drink your bottle a day, sir!

Copernicus, that learned wight,
The glory of his nation,
With draughts of wine refreshed his sight,
And saw the earth’s rotation;
Each planet then its orb described,
The moon got under way, sir;
These truths from nature he imbibed
For he drank his bottle a day, sir!

The noble Tycho placed the stars,
Each in its due location;
He lost his nose by spite of Mars,
But that was no privation:
Had he but lost his mouth, I grant
He would have felt dismay, sir,
Bless you! he knew what he should want
To drink his bottle a day, sir!

Cold water makes no lucky hits;
On mysteries the head runs:
Small drink let Kepler time his wits
On the regular polyhedrons:
He took to wine, and it changed the chime,
His genius swept away, sir,
Through area varying as the time
At the rate of a bottle a day, sir!

Poor Galileo, forced to rat
Before the Inquisition,
E pur si muove was the pat
He gave them in addition:
He meant, whate’er you think you prove,
The earth must go its way, sirs;
Spite of your teeth I’ll make it move,
For I’ll drink my bottle a day, sirs!

Great Newton, who was never beat
Whatever fools may think, sir;
Though sometimes he forgot to eat,
He never forgot to drink, sir:
Descartes took nought but lemonade,
To conquer him was play, sir;
The first advance that Newton made
Was to drink his bottle a day, sir!

D’Alembert, Euler, and Clairaut,
Though they increased our store, sir,
Much further had been seen to go
Had they tippled a little more, sir!
Lagrange gets mellow with Laplace,
And both are wont to say, sir,
The philosophe who’s not an ass
Will drink his bottle a day, sir!

Astronomers! what can avail
Those who calumniate us;
Experiment can never fail
With such an apparatus:
Let him who’d have his merits known
Remember what I say, sir;
Fair science shines on him alone
Who drinks his bottle a day, sir!

How light we reck of those who mock
By this we’ll make to appear, sir,
We’ll dine by the sidereal clock
For one more bottle a year, sir:
But choose which pendulum you will,
You’ll never make your way, sir,
Unless you drink – and drink your fill, –
At least a bottle a day, sir!

(c) Source : The World of Mathematics by James R Newman

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2 Responses to “The Astronomer’s Drinking Song”


  1. October 11, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    only if i had the mind/brain of Galileo and d’Alembert, i would go for a bottle a day! for now, a glass of wine is more than enough.

    great post as usual my friend.

    Stay busy, get plenty of exercise, and don’t drink too much. Then again, don’t drink too little. ~Herman “Jackrabbit” Smith-Johannsen

    Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut. ~Ernest Hemingway

    Bacchus has drowned more men than Neptune. ~Giuseppe Garibaldi

  2. 2 Entropy
    October 12, 2007 at 8:20 am

    Hi ! Michele.

    Thanks for your words of wisdom & caring.. For me also a glass of wine is more than enough.


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