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I am reading a book titled " The man who loved only numbers", the author is : Paul Hoffman. I encounter a problem in understanding some lines, would some one help me ( I think there is an indirect meaning behind these lines)

There was a young man who said "God

Must find it exceedingly odd

To think that the tree

Should continue to be

When there's no one about in the quad."

"Dear Sir: Your astonishment's odd;

I am always about in the quad.

And that's why the tree

Will continue to be

Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God.”

Note that, by googling, I find this is a quote for Ronald Arbuthnott Knox.

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In his first stanza, Ronald Arbuthnot Knox sets the scene

There was a young man who said "God
Must find it exceedingly odd
To think that the tree
Should continue to be
When there's no one about in the quad."

A young man is thinking about a quad that he is familiar with

A quad or quadrangle is an area surrounded on four sides by buildings in an academic setting and usually part of a larger campus

from this one can infer that the young man may be a student or scholar.

The question is asked whether the tree should be / exist or not if no one is present. The reference is not to a tree but the tree.

metaphorically the tree is an allusion to the tree of knowledge

This is a philosophical question along the lines of

If a tree falls in a forest (note parallel using tree)

In his second stanza, Knox writes God's reply

Dear Sir: Your astonishment's odd;
I am always about in the quad.
And that's why the tree
Will continue to be
Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God.

God's reply is that (s)he is always present (always about in the quad) and therefore the tree lives (continues to be). (S)he closes using observed and faithfully

Observance and faith are religious codes words for piety.

On the surface the limerick is saying God is ever present.

At a deeper level, Knox may be saying that

God knows more than man can comprehend

no matter the learned education

Knox's writings are considered to be witty and eloquent and usually calls into question Catholic doctrine.

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