The violin is not the violinist

Since an eye surgery in May, I have not been able to maintain this blog, read printed works or monitor email. I am improving, and a surgery on the other eye is coming soon. In a few months, perhaps my vision will return to nearly normal. A violin can break a string but the violinist is still a violinist. Hopefully I’ll return to playing the music soon.

Johann KeplerMy friend Mike K. read aloud to me the other day an epigram Johann Kepler wrote for his book on optics (Ad Vitellionem paralipomena, 1604). Kepler wrote this prefatory poem as a dialogue between his eyes and his mind, and it reveals his ongoing struggle with poor vision. I am very moved by Kepler’s suffering in the midst of writing one of the most significant works on optics in the entire history of science, and encouraged by Kepler’s insistence that his mind will more than make up for what his eyes may lack. Here is the translation of William H. Donahue:


O dear mind, we have lost our sharpness, while the lights of the true
We have sent to your threshold, through our glazing.
Without this marriage, you would remain blind: of the work,
Give some return to your partners; give, sweet sister!

What should I do for those in distress?
When did an implacable hour separate me far from your hospitality?

Snatch us away from darkness, lead us to whatever light you will go to;
And from whatever fear of death you lack, deliver us also.

As far as possible, I shall do it; only let fame favor the speaker;
I shall make you mortals eternal with my writings.
Here also I bring back the losses that you have borne for me;
And here I shall cast rays upon its brilliance, even with blemishes.

Johann Kepler, Ad Vitellionem paralipomena (1604)
Johann Kepler Ad Vitellionem paralipomena, 1604


Update Thanksgiving, 2013:
Oklahoma City violinist finds new music in broken instruments: Classically trained violinist Kyle Dillingham sees something different in what some would consider broken (The Oklahoman, November 28, 2013).

This entry was posted in History of Science and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The violin is not the violinist

  1. Pingback: What are your dreams? | Kerry's loft

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *