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- The Home Book of Verse, Volume 4 - 40/53 -


"I am going to be a horse! And on my middle finger-nails To run my earthly course! I'm going to have a flowing tail! I'm going to have a mane! I'm going to stand fourteen hands high On the psychozoic plain!"

The Coryphodon was horrified, The Dinoceras was shocked; And they chased young Eohippus, But he skipped away and mocked. And they laughed enormous laughter, And they groaned enormous groans, And they bade young Eohippus Go view his father's bones. Said they, "You always were as small And mean as now we see, And that's conclusive evidence That you're always going to be. What! Be a great, tall, handsome beast, With hoofs to gallop on? Why! You'd have to change your nature!" Said the Loxolophodon. They considered him disposed of, And retired with gait serene; That was the way they argued In "the early Eocene."

There was once an Anthropoidal Ape, Far smarter than the rest, And everything that they could do He always did the best; So they naturally disliked him, And they gave him shoulders cool, And when they had to mention him They said he was a fool.

Cried this pretentious Ape one day, "I'm going to be a Man! And stand upright, and hunt, and fight, And conquer all I can! I'm going to cut down forest trees, To make my houses higher! I'm going to kill the Mastodon! I'm going to make a fire!"

Loud screamed the Anthropoidal Apes With laughter wild and gay; They tried to catch that boastful one, But he always got away. So they yelled at him in chorus, Which he minded not a whit; And they pelted him with cocoanuts, Which didn't seem to hit. And then they gave him reasons Which they thought of much avail, To prove how his preposterous Attempt was sure to fail. Said the sages, "In the first place, The thing cannot be done! And, second, if it could be, It would not be any fun! And, third, and most conclusive, And admitting no reply, You would have to change your nature! We should like to see you try!" They chuckled then triumphantly, These lean and hairy shapes, For these things passed as arguments With the Anthropoidal Apes.

There was once a Neolithic Man, An enterprising wight, Who made his chopping implements Unusually bright. Unusually clever he, Unusually brave, And he drew delightful Mammoths On the borders of his cave. To his Neolithic neighbors, Who were startled and surprised, Said he, "My friends, in course of time, We shall be civilized! We are going to live in cities! We are going to fight in wars! We are going to eat three times a day Without the natural cause! We are going to turn life upside down About a thing called gold! We are going to want the earth, and take As much as we can hold! We are going to wear great piles of stuff Outside our proper skins! We are going to have diseases! And Accomplishments!! And Sins!!!"

Then they all rose up in fury Against their boastful friend, For prehistoric patience Cometh quickly to an end. Said one, "This is chimerical! Utopian! Absurd!" Said another, "What a stupid life! Too dull, upon my word!" Cried all, "Before such things can come, You idiotic child, You must alter Human Nature!" And they all sat back and smiled. Thought they, "An answer to that last It will be hard to find!" It was a clinching argument To the Neolithic Mind!

Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman [1860-1935]

MAN AND THE ASCIDIAN A Morality

"The Ancestor remote of Man," Says Darwin, "is the Ascidian," A scanty sort of water-beast That, ninety million years at least Before Gorillas came to be, Went swimming up and down the sea.

Their ancestors the pious praise, And like to imitate their ways; How, then, does our first parent live, What lesson has his life to give?

The Ascidian tadpole, young and gay, Doth Life with one bright eye survey, His consciousness has easy play. He's sensitive to grief and pain, Has tail, a spine, and bears a brain, And everything that fits the state Of creatures we call vertebrate. But age comes on; with sudden shock He sticks his head against a rock! His tail drops off, his eye drops in, His brain's absorbed into his skin; He does not move, nor feel, nor know The tidal water's ebb and flow, But still abides, unstirred, alone, A sucker sticking to a stone.

And we, his children, truly we In youth are, like the Tadpole, free. And where we would we blithely go, Have brains and hearts, and feel and know. Then Age comes on! To Habit we Affix ourselves and are not free; The Ascidian's rooted to a rock, And we are bond-slaves of the clock; Our rocks are Medicine - Letters - Law, From these our heads we cannot draw: Our loves drop off, our hearts drop in, And daily thicker grows our skin.

Ah, scarce we live, we scarcely know The wide world's moving ebb and flow, The clanging currents ring and shock, But we are rooted to the rock. And thus at ending of his span, Blind, deaf, and indolent, does Man Revert to the Ascidian.

Andrew Lang [1844-1912]

THE CALF-PATH

One day, through the primeval wood, A calf walked home, as good calves should; But made a trail all bent askew, A crooked trail as all calves do.

Since then two hundred years have fled, And, I infer, the calf is dead. But still he left behind his trail, And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day By a lone dog that passed that way; And then a wise bell-wether sheep Pursued the trail o'er vale and steep, And drew the flock behind him, too, As good bell-wethers always do.

And from that day, o'er hill and glade, Through those old woods a path was made; And many men wound in and out, And dodged, and turned, and bent about And uttered words of righteous wrath Because 'twas such a crooked path.

But still they followed - do not laugh - The first migrations of that calf,


The Home Book of Verse, Volume 4 - 40/53

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