From Acetone to Israel

And now for something rather different. Geoff Lander, a chemist-turned-versifier, sends me his latest. It’s a story that I didn’t know, so I thought I’d share it here.

From Acetone to Israel

The sickly smell of acetone,
(to pundits di-methyl ketone)
is found in late stage diabetes,
where the link distinctly sweet is.

Count among its other facets
solvent with strong polar assets,
dint of size and double bond,
of ‘melting’ plastics it is fond,
(this, for glamour girls entails
wiping gloss from fingernails).

Its story in the combat zone
is altogether lesser known.
This saga I will now relate
since acetone’s inanimate.

Back when gunpowder held sway,
much to brigadiers’ dismay
batteries were often smashed
due to their own muzzle flash.
Its source, of course, the gun’s position,
lured the sharp-eyed opposition
into a game of tit for tat —
a well-aimed shell and that was that.

The gunners’ cries grew ever louder
’til ‘Cordite’, the first flashless powder,
hid that telltale flare from sight
with a twist to Dynamite,
though at first supply fell prone
to scarcity of acetone[1].

Unaware of their involvement
in production of the solvent,
children up and down the nation
carted chestnuts to the station,
promised hush hush transportation
(off to sites of fermentation),

These nutty trips went unfulfilled
when fruits did not react as billed,
the speculation was mistaken
chestnuts’ place by corn was taken,
and bugs were taught a ketone twist
by a cunning Zionist.

Weizmann, who had solved the hitch
grew inordinately rich
and in nineteen seventeen
we find him on the Whitehall scene
providing background information
for Lord Balfour’s declaration,
by which the Jews (expelled by Rome)
regained a Middle Eastern home.

All things come to those who wait,
and thus in nineteen forty-eight.
when acetone, in part, had freed them
Weizmann came at last to lead them.



  1. Nemo
    Posted January 7, 2011 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    Well, now that you’ve read the story in verse, you can read a very brief theatrical adaptation by no less than George Bernard Shaw. “Arthur and the Acetone” was written in 1936, so obviously there is no reference to the creation of Israel in 1948.

  2. Posted January 7, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Nemo –
    Thanks for this. I’d not come across it before, and it’s a good reminder of how sharp Shaw could be when he was on form, even in the thiries. His final prophecy: “Another Ulster!” seems all too appropriate.

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