Alienum phaedrum torquatos nec eu, vis detraxit periculis ex, nihil expetendis in mei. Mei an pericula euripidis, hinc partem.

Euclid Alone Has Looked on Beauty Bare

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950) was one of America’s most talented 20th century poets, whose brilliance as a sonneteer has secured her place in numerous collections of children’s poetry.

Yet, Millay’s repertoire includes playwriting, short stories, an operatic libretto, essays, and scores of lyric verses that will surely guarantee her contribution to American letters for generations to come.

Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.
Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace,
And lay them prone upon the earth and cease
To ponder on themselves, the while they stare
At nothing, intricately drawn nowhere
In shapes of shifting lineage; let geese
Gabble and hiss, but heroes seek release
From dusty bondage into luminous air.
O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day,
When first the shaft into his vision shone
Of light anatomized! Euclid alone
Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they
Who, though once only and then but far away,
Have heard her massive sandal set on stone.


A B C is letters. One Two Three is numbers—mathematica. What marks verse off from prose is that it talks letters in numbers. Numbers is a nickname for poetry. Poetry plays rhythms of dramatic speech on the grid of meter. A good map carries its own scale of miles.

— Robert Frost, “Poetry and School” (1951)

In the modern era, mathematics has arisen to become the international lingua franca of science, enabling empirical researchers and scientists to symbolically represent all types of patterns.

Doing mathematics properly requires one to think in a certain way about a certain sort of thing (mathematics), and eventually one becomes familiar with it and how it tends to go.

A proof is a movement of logic that unfolds as a narrative. It is incumbent upon the mathematician not only to know the truth, but also to communicate the truth to an audience. Therefore, the very act of proof writing is also an act of rhetoric.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950) was one of America’s most talented 20th century poets, whose brilliance as a sonneteer has secured her place in numerous collections of children’s poetry.

This Socratic approach equips students to take more responsibility for their learning, increasing their confidence and motivating them to undertake the further exploration of mathematical reality, just as Socrates did with the young boy in Plato’s Meno.

Practical application often motivates such beautiful abstract mathematics; while, at the same time, abstract thinking often motivates practical mathematics. It’s time to share that side of the coin and how both sides work together.

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