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Louis Untermeyer – Einstein Among the Coffee Cups

Einstein with a coffee mug
(courtesy of Elevatorbob)

A poem Einstein Among the Coffee Cups by Louis Untermeyer (1885-1976) was included in his Collected Parodies (1926). An American poet, translator, parodist, critic and a children’s author, Untermeyer took on a no small work by parodying T.S.Eliot. Given that in 1948 Eliot was to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, one can say that Untermeyer had made a good choice.

In this poem Untermeyer parodies the sophisticated air of Eliot’s poems, his associations and a special fondness of Biblical and mythological allusions. The parody was inspired by such poems by T.S.Eliot as Preludes, Burbank with a Baedeker, Sweeney Erect, A Cooking Egg, Whispers of Immortality, Sweeney Among the Nightingales.

Deflective rhythms under seas
Where Sappho tuned the snarling air;
A shifting of the spectral lines
Grown red with gravity and wear.

New systems of coordinates
Disturb the Sunday table-cloth.
Celestine yawns. Sir Oliver
Hints of the jaguar and sloth.

A chord of the eleventh shrieks
And slips beyond the portico.
The night contracts. A warp in space
Has rumours of Correggio.

Lights. Mrs. Blumenthal expands;
Calories beyond control.
The rector brightens. Tea is served:
Euclid supplanted by the sole.

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