Brief reflection on accuracy

By Miroslav Holub 1923–1998 Miroslav Holub
Fish
    always accurately know where to move and when,
    and likewise
    birds have an accurate built-in time sense
    and orientation.

Humanity, however,
    lacking such instincts resorts to scientific
    research. Its nature is illustrated by the following
    occurrence.

A certain soldier
    had to fire a cannon at six o’clock sharp every evening.
    Being a soldier he did so. When his accuracy was
    investigated he explained:

I go by
    the absolutely accurate chronometer in the window
    of the clockmaker down in the city. Every day at seventeen
    forty-five I set my watch by it and
    climb the hill where my cannon stands ready.
    At seventeen fifty-nine precisely I step up to the cannon
    and at eighteen hours sharp I fire.

And it was clear
    that this method of firing was absolutely accurate.
    All that was left was to check that chronometer. So
    the clockmaker down in the city was questioned about
    his instrument’s accuracy.

Oh, said the clockmaker,
    this is one of the most accurate instruments ever. Just imagine,
    for many years now a cannon has been fired at six o’clock sharp.
    And every day I look at this chronometer
    and always it shows exactly six.

Chronometers tick and cannon boom.

Miroslav Holub, “Brief reflection on accuracy” from Poems Before & After.  Reprinted with the permission of Bloodaxe Books Ltd., www.bloodaxebooks.com.

Source: Poems Before and After (Bloodaxe Books, 2006)

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Poet Miroslav Holub 1923–1998

POET’S REGION Eastern Europe

Subjects Jobs & Working, Animals, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Miroslav  Holub

Biography

Miroslav Holub is a scientist by vocation and considers his poetry a pastime. Holub told Stephen Stepanchev in a New Leader interview that the Czech Writers Union had offered him a stipend equivalent to his salary as a research scientist to enable him to devote two years to his poetry. "But I like science," he said. "Anyway, I'm afraid that, if I had all the time in the world to write my poems, I would write nothing at all."

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Jobs & Working, Animals, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION Eastern Europe

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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