In his editorial “Physics and poetry” (Physics Today, April 2022, page 8), Charles Day states that he found “barely a handful” of poems related to physical phenomena in the online poem collection of the Poetry Foundation. He might have had better luck looking in 19th-century sources.

We are the editors of the MIT website the Net Advance of Physics, which includes a section called “Watchers of the Moon”1 (an allusion to the famous paintings by Caspar David Friedrich). It is an anthology of science-themed poetry from the (very) long 19th century, which we define as 1750–1925. The lower limit is arbitrary; the upper limit has to do with copyright law. The section features poems by the usual suspects (William Wordsworth, Edgar Allan Poe, and so on), but also by obscure and forgotten writers. The quality, it need hardly be said, spans a similarly broad range.

Two Men Contemplating the Moon, by Caspar David Friedrich, oil on canvas (1819), Dresden State Art Collections/public domain.

Two Men Contemplating the Moon, by Caspar David Friedrich, oil on canvas (1819), Dresden State Art Collections/public domain.

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We have also included the verse of James Clerk Maxwell and other literarily inclined scientists. We suspect our page “The One of Time, of Space the Three: The Collected Poems of Sir William Rowan Hamilton” might be of particular interest to physicists and mathematicians. Because of our linguistic limitations, “Watchers of the Moon” presently includes only poetry in English (with a few translations); we would welcome suggestions for 19th-century poems from other cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

1.
The Net Advance of Physics Retro
, “
Watchers of the Moon: Poetry and Mathematical Physics in the Long Nineteenth Century
,” https://web.mit.edu/redingtn/www/netadv/SPpoetry.html.
2.
C.
Day
,
Physics Today
75
(
4
),
8
(
2022
).