Song for William James

Song for William James by Robert Sargent

Argument Early inculcations cling.
We must to our insight bring:
Truth is an invented thing.
The illimitable number
of chance
Randomness makes up the world:
Her flickering events
Are numbered like the babbling stars
In their extravagance.
Our selective
choice of
assimilable events
From this set we pick and choose,
Selectively, the ones
That keep our theories entire,
Neglecting other suns.
Our theories not
The theory designed to fit
A proper realm of fact
Leaves out the shameless other realms
That with our realm react.
Our local view
of space
The corporal sizes we observe,
Galactic to the little,
Make us suspect a further range,
Since man is in the middle.
Our local view
of time
The instruments that measure time
From eons down to shakes
Show that the year which measures us
A mid-position takes.
Man’s partisanship The way man sees the neutral world
Depends upon the times,
And is as partisan a thing
And human as his rhymes.
Recapitulation These persuasive voices sing:
Grant that metaphor is king;
Truth is an invented thing.

The Antioch Review, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Winter, 1964-1965), p. 464


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