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Case 234

Ozymandias

The nun Hwídah has composed this uncharacteristically somber sonnet for your contemplation:

I chanced upon an ancient cache of code:
a stack of printouts, tall as any man,
that in decaying boxes had been stowed.
Ten thousand crumbling pages long it ran.
Abandoned in the blackness to erode,
what steered a ship through blackness to the moon.
The language is unused in this late year.
The target hardware, likewise, lies in ruin.
Entombed within one lone procedure’s scope,
a line of code and then these words appear:

# TEMPORARY, I HOPE HOPE HOPE

The code beside persisting to the last—
as permanent as aught upon this sphere—
while overhead, a vacant moon flies past.

Editor’s note

Inspired by this story of the Apollo Guidance Computer code for Apollo 11, and this code within, and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias of course.

I tried to keep to Shelley’s unusual (and non-standard) rhyme scheme for the sonnet, but I departed from it in the second-to-last line for poetic reasons. For a language which excels in stealing words from other cultures, English has an appalling lack of rhymes.

* Special thanks to Dan Sutton for pointing out a most embarrassing typo.
Topics...  FIXME, TODO, kludges