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Poetry &Science | 10 Jul 2008

Benzene

This is fascinating poem on Benzene by analytic chemist Paul Board. Equally captivating, its connection with William Blake’s poem THE TYGER

Authors note…With sincere apologies to William Blake ! –

Benzene! Benzene! Burning bright
Belching engines day and night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame Kekulé’s symmetry ?
Who’d have thought your Carbon Six
Could have produced such toxic tricks
Or provide the building blocks
For a plastic world (and cure the pox) ?

Aesthetic, perfect aromatic
Substitutes produce chromatic
Dyes that brighten every day.
Thank you Mr Faraday.
Clothe our backs and cure our ills
Blow or dull our brains with pills
Ironic that your homologues
Pollute our land and stock our smogs
Benzene – your hydroxyl daughters
Need locking up, they pollute our waters
Adding chlorine provides persistence
(Target organs keep your distance).

Doubt Kekulé ever dreamt
Of such riches (or torment).
Oh benzene whether bound or free
Did He who made the Lamb make Thee ?
Benzene! Benzene! Burning bright
Belching engines day and night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame Kekulé’s symmetry ?

© Paul Board

6 Responses to “Benzene”

  1. on 10 Jul 2008 at 1:25 PM 1.Michele Roohani said …

    Being a chemical engineer and this poem of blake being one of the few english poems that i know well, i was very amused by this funny twist. bravo!

    TIGER, tiger, burning bright
    In the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

    In what distant deeps or skies
    Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
    On what wings dare he aspire?
    What the hand dare seize the fire?

    And what shoulder and what art
    Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
    And when thy heart began to beat,
    What dread hand and what dread feet?

    What the hammer? what the chain?
    In what furnace was thy brain?
    What the anvil? What dread grasp
    Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

    When the stars threw down their spears,
    And water’d heaven with their tears,
    Did He smile His work to see?
    Did He who made the lamb make thee?

    Tiger, tiger, burning bright
    In the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

  2. on 24 Aug 2008 at 5:29 AM 2.Paul Board said …

    On a wet, windy and wild Saturday night in North Wales, whilst waiting for my teenage daughter to come home, I googled my old ‘poem’ benzene. Really glad it’s travelling!

    Thanks for your kind comment Michele, and great site. Glad I found it.

    Paul Board

  3. on 03 Feb 2011 at 4:55 PM 3.Wilson said …

    The poem Benzene is included in the syllabus of Semester IV students of the Kannur University in Kerala.

    AS I am a lecturer who has to teach this poem, I would like to hear directly from the author.
    Please be kind enough to send me an explanation.
    This poem is taught to students who dont study chemistry. That is why such an explanation is essential

    Congrats for your fine poem. It is part of the curriculum in a university
    Hope to hear from you

  4. on 04 Feb 2011 at 9:22 AM 4.Entropy said …

    Pl note this Poem is By Paul Board – Pl care to send an email to him on boardp@gmail.com to acknowledge

  5. on 07 Feb 2011 at 1:34 AM 5.Paul Board said …

    Well I am amazed. The little poem Benzene has taken on a life of its own and I am really honored that it is being used in a University Syllabus (or indeed being read at all).

    For some explanation on the poem. see:

    http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/archive/tcaw/11/i09/pdf/902light.pdf

    But if Wilson wants to get in touch directly via the e-mail above more than welcome. I would love to hear from you.

    Best Regards

    Paul

  6. on 16 Feb 2011 at 12:41 PM 6.Michele said …

    I read it again – witty !

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