Robert Frost: Iota Subscript, perfect pairs, and LaTeX

I said this elsewhere a long time ago, if I remember correctly, on a post regarding love poetry verse-making and which started with a funny mathematical love poem, and the ‘mutual edification of perfect pairs’:

Another metaphoric take on the ‘mutual edification’ of perfect pairs, but from a subscripted vowelized view is:

“Seek not in me the big I capital,
Not yet the little dotted in me seek.
If I have in me any I at all,
‘Tis the iota subscript of the Greek.

So small am I as an attention beggar.
The letter you will find me subscript to
Is neither alpha, eta, nor omega,
But upsilon which is the Greek for you.”

-Robert Frost, “Iota Subscript”

Methinks the wonderful world of chemistry, with its talk of bonding, attraction, resonances, fleeting transient states, chivalrous chirality and phase transitions that seemingly wax and wane with lunar cyclicity, may also offer fertile ground for eros verse-making…


One of Robert Frost’s little irreverent poems which amused me to no end when I was little.

But later when I was struggling with LaTeX when typing and formatting all my technical academic documents with lines and lines of mathematical notation and formulas, I cursed and swore most unloving-like at all those foxy iota subscripts and alphas etas omegas and bloody upsilons which simply did not return my tender love and refused to fall in line neatly.

So much for alpha and omega and ‘eros verse-making’…

For all the alpha in me, there exists only the omega for you
∀α∈Α, ∃ω:Ω(ω)



2 thoughts on “Robert Frost: Iota Subscript, perfect pairs, and LaTeX

  1. I thought I knew all Robert Frost’s poems, but clearly I’m wrong.

    On typesetting and other related academic pains, I printed my thesis via the library laser printer with its substandard ink because I was too impatient – it started flaking and disappearing – looked totally on track to become a 无字天书. Extremely apt too, since it was on religious fundamentalism. The dept was sufficiently amused and sympathetic to gave me a week’s extension – it was still annoying because we’d planned to take the ferry to MY immediately after handing in our theses to escape for a week before facing the world.

    The hilarious thing was, after I paid for express-binding and rushed to catch the next scheduled ferry, I found them at the terminal playing ball because they missed their boat too. Or rather, as they put it, it was docked, but they weren’t allowed to board. And when they tried to reason, they were mocked with, “Can you hear the horn going brr brr brr? It’s saying bye bye bye.”

    Technically, I think it meant engine going astern, but it was a timely introduction to functioning in the real world that doesn’t run on reason. And the importance of humor and being able to work out contingency plans.

  2. :)

    I like taking the ferries up along the east coast of peninsular malaysia to any one of the inviting beaches and resorts to be found along the coast and islands.

    Nothing like sitting at the open deck of a high-speed catamaran ferry zipping and skipping along the waves and feeling the sea breeze across my face, plugged into my Discman with fav beach chill-out tunes from Hotel Costes and Cafe del Mar (don’t judge! they were cool at that time), my mates next to me, and watching the tiny dots on the horizon get nearer and bigger and the delicious feelings of anticipation in the stomach knowing we’re reaching Redang soon…

    Driving there is very fun too…more fun actually, especially if you know some interesting little nooks and corners and villages along the way. Driving upcountry through the east coast of Msia for the beaches, nature reserves and villages; the west coast for the historical towns, maritime heritage, and cool highland cottage getaways. I loved it…

    Those were the days.


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