Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Some Darwinian poetry to make you smile

Charles Darwin's grandfather Eramus Darwin was a brilliant but seriously bonkers chap--a kind of 18th Century English Rasta. You can read all about his interests on the relevant Wikipedia page, but I cannot help sharing these few lines from the Temple of Nature in which he sees the fruits of past (sensual or sexual) pleasure in geological sediments? What was he smoking?

"HEAR, O ye Sons of Time! your final doom,
And read the characters, that mark your tomb:
The marble mountain, and the sparry steep,
Were built by myriad nations of the deep, --
Age after age, who form'd their spiral shells,
Their sea-fan gardens and their coral cells;
Till central fires with unextinguished sway
Raised the primeval islands into day; --
The sand-fill'd strata stretch'd from pole to pole;
Unmeasured beds of clay, and marl, and coal,
Black ore of manganese, the zinky stone,
And dusky steel on his magnetic throne,
In deep morass, or eminence superb,
Rose from the wrecks of animal or herb;
These from their elements by Life combined,
Form'd by digestion, and in glands refined,
Gave by their just excitement of the sense
The Bliss of Being to the vital Ens.

"Thus the tall mountains, that emboss the lands,
Huge isles of rock, and continents of sands,
Whose dim extent eludes the inquiring sight,
Shout round the globe, how Reproduction strives
With vanquish'd Death, -- and Happiness survives;
How Life increasing peoples every clime,
And young renascent nature conquers Time;
And high in golden characters record
The immense munificence of NATURE'S LORD!
For a roots reggae reinterpretation of some of Ras D's anti-slavery poetry, have a listen at this rough and ready bit of whimsy I cooked up a few years ago with a Jamaican friend.