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The Rime of the Ancient Geometer

by Steven Clayman

‘Squaring the circle’ is an ancient problem in geometry, of constructing a square with the same area as a given circle using only a compass and straightedge. The task is mathematically impossible, but nonetheless attracted many ardent cranks and charlatans over the centuries.

While some doth boast and many said it,
Verily I claim the credit.
For having lastly squared the circle,
I quaff thy praise lest some young Turk’ll.

Perchance that thou art not impressed,
Behold what I shall now attest:
It came to pass (this may seem pompous)
With naught but straightedge and a compass.

Unleash thy fettered lauds and laurels!
I fancy most the sweets and florals.
But giveth not thy full devotion:
I’ve well-nigh wrought perpetual motion.

© Steven Clayman 2023

Steven Clayman is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at UCLA.

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