Michael Keith rewrote Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven to turn it into a mnemonic for pi. Keith’s version follows the original quite well considering his severe constraints. The full poem has 18 stanzas. Here I include only the first and last. The full version can be found here.
* * *
Near a Raven
Midnights so dreary, tired and weary,
Silently pondering volumes extolling all by-now obsolete lore,
During my rather long nap — the weirdest tap!
An ominous vibrating sound disturbing my chamber’s antedoor.
“This,” I whispered quietly, “I ignore.”
So he sitteth, observing always, perching ominously on these doorways.
Squatting on the stony bust so untroubled, O therefore.
Suffering stark raven’s conversings, I am so condemned, subserving,
To a nightmare cursed, containing miseries galore.
Thus henceforth, I’ll rise (from a darkness, a grave) — nevermore!
* * *
The number of letters in most words encodes a digit of pi. Words with 10 letters encode a zero. Words with more than 10 letters encode two consecutive digits of pi. The poem encodes the first 740 digits of pi.
2 thoughts on “Pi and The Raven”
This spring my daughter was introduced to the Oulipo movement of writers in her critical writing seminar at college. The Oulipians employ techniques of formal constraint (the lipogram, the palindrome) in their writing. This poem certainly has affinities with the Oulipian œuvre.
Thanks for reminding me about http://www.cadaeic.net/index.html, a wonderful place! Mike Keith has assembled a fantastic collection of examples of constrained writing, anagrams, palindromes, etc. I hope to meet him someday.
It is truly fascinating that so much has been done with Pilish http://www.cadaeic.net/pilish.htm and other forms of constrained writing.
Note that the poem you cite is 740 characters of a longer (3835 digits) work that continues on after Poe with Carrol, Khayam, Prufrock, Shakespeare, Sandburg, and more.
And that this is the second longest work of Pilish, next after the 10,000 digit current world record holder.