In book V of Aurora Leigh (1856) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the narrator asks herself what she expects to achieve in her poetry:

                                          Shall I hope
To speak my poems in mysterious tune
With man and nature,—with the lava-lymph
That trickles from successive galaxies
Still drop by drop adown the finger of God,
In still new worlds?

This is a description of the power and magnitude of God’s creation, but the idea of flowing material trickling from galaxies and creating worlds is striking and specific. (“Lava” is the molten rock flowing from a volcano, and “lymph” is a poetic term for water, as well as various biological fluids.) Was Browning alluding to a particular theory of cosmogony in these lines? Are there passages in the early expositions of the nebular theory of planetary formation, for example, Kant’s Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels (1798), or Laplace’s Exposition du système du monde (1827), that could have suggested this description to her?

  • I'm curious: Is Barrett Browning is known to have been familiar with the work of Kant and Laplace? How did you choose these two?
    – verbose
    Feb 21, 2021 at 7:29


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