Oxford, 15th June 2014
Francis Bacon! What are you doing here?
No, not you, haunted painter of my worst nightmares. "I'll visit you later," you say? Thanks.
No, not you, muse to Elizabeth I and James VI, scientist and maybe Shakespeare's ghostwriter. I've had you're sort here before.
No. You, Francis Roger Bacon, born 800 years ago. You were Oxford University's first protégé. Like al-Khayyám and Nefertiti, you were years ahead of your time. And 11 days, too. For it was all your fault, want it? You who noticed that the year was sliding sideways, and you who, five hundred years later, stole the 10th of September. Now that's what I call a Time Lord. What, I wonder, did you do with that day, the one you had to yourself?
And fellow lover of optics. "Glasses can be shaped so great distances appear near, and make stars appear where you want." How is it your Opus Majus describes how to build a telescope, four hundred years before Lippershey builds the first?
What is that you say? Your voice is faint. "An instrument for sailing without oarsmen. A chariot that moves without horses. And instrument for flying, as a bird does, but with a man sitting in it." Boats, planes and automobiles. You medieval playboy! Move over Aristotle. Eat your heart out, da Vinci.
And mystic. Why did you write the Voynich manuscript? What does it say? Why are you waving the Secretum Secretorum in my face as your spirit passes through my soul? How, in your Secret Works, do you glide so gracefully from magic to machines, and on to eternal life?
And what is that you have there? Your Brazen Head! The first automaton, whose DNA must guide the choreography in my watch hands today. That's why you've come to see me.
Sorry, FRB, say again? What was that you whispered? "So many secrets of nature and art are thought magical by the unlearned. They leave behind the work of nature and of art for the sake of the error of incantations and symbols."
Away with you, Bacon. No, wait, what was that? I can hardly hear you. "Thought is the first mover, then desire in conformity with thought, and afterward the natural force of limbs."