Less Wrong Poetry Corner: Coventry Patmore’s “Magna Est Veritas”


This is my favorite poem that’s secretly about the necessity of revealing information about deception!

Here, in this little Bay,
Full of tumultuous life and great repose,
Where, twice a day,
The purposeless, glad ocean comes and goes,
Under high cliffs, and far from the huge town,
I sit me down.
For want of me the world’s course will not fail:
When all its work is done, the lie shall rot;
The truth is great, and shall prevail,
When none cares whether it prevail or not.

Truth will win out in the end—after no one has any remaining incentive to lie, because the liars have already gotten everything they wanted? Is that supposed to be comforting? I’m going to assume the contented tone is ironic, and that this is really a coded plea for the importance of speed. The truth is great and shall prevail … and the work of rationality is to get it to prevail faster—the need of us to make the world’s course fail.