“Sonnet to Nothing”


Mysterious Nothing! how shall I define
Thy shapeless, baseless, placeless emptiness?
Nor form, nor colour, sound, nor size is thine,
Nor words nor fingers can thy voice express;
But though we cannot thee to aught compare,
A thousand things to thee may likened be,
And though thou art with nobody nowhere,
Yet half mankind devote themselves to thee.
How many books thy history contain!
How many heads thy mighty plans pursue!
What labouring hands thy portion only gain!
What busy bodies thy doings only do!
To thee the great, the proud, the giddy bend,
And — like my sonnet — all in nothing end.

— Richard Porson, in Morning Chronicle, March 4, 1814