For Iggy McGovern: A Sonnet

You cannot fool a fool; a con game’s lost
In translation. Likewise, to render these
Sonnets of yours into some torn, gong-tossed
Free verse would leave acres of vacancies:

The way you cast each poem inside the head
Of that great polymath, or of each kith
And kin, distinct, original, well said,
Yet each turn ending right on the foot fifth —

And in more perfect rhyme than I can fit;
Your three times 4 lines set not in concrete
But floating neatly, fleetly on the wit
Of couplets mathematically complete.

Thanks for these squared gems chiseled from the void,
And the Trinity tour (‘round 3) we so enjoyed.


Ignatius McGovern, a retired fellow in physics at Trinity College, Dublin, has published his third volume of poetry as a sonnet sequence based on the life and writings of William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865). Hamilton was also a fellow at Trinity, an astronomer and mathematician who devised quarternion algebra, a friend of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and a poet. Quarternions are numbers that reflect not just a single measurement, like our common numbers, but four, somewhat like the dimensions of time-space (as best I can understand). His insight into quarternions is said to have come to him while walking along the Royal Canal with Lady Hamilton, not with a jingle jangle but a mystic dream of 4. Thus, Iggy McGovern’s sonnet sequence, “A Mystic Dream of 4,” contains four sections of 14 sonnets each from the voices of Hamilton’s friends and relations, plus sonnets from Hamilton’s perspective and on the section titles: Geometry, Algebra, Metaphysics and Poetry. It is an amazing work of intellect and music, like a St. Brigid’s Cross of poetry and science.

Trinity library

Trinity College Library, which holds the famous Book of Kells


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