Of those whom our retrospect makes giants, research generally proves to be of average height. This is especially true at this stage of Darwin's life. At the age of 22, a young man embarks on a remarkable journey of discovery--of self as well as of the natural world.
(These excerpts may seem like a lot but the work itself is 24 pages long. So I've been extremely selective. The pictures are for purposes of the blog, they are not a part of the poem itself. Which is to say, I'm not a multi-media artist. Not cool enough for that.)
Until the end of time? At any rate,
This place is gorgeous, Father. Let that be
The final word on Salvador. The grass
Is elegant. Has that been said of grass
Before? Even the greedy weeds possess
A beauty to match the flowers.
Of sound and silence, chaos of delight.
Dear sisters—taking sport in furling sheets
Against the Samarang. A regular
Man o’ war befuddled by our Beagle.
There I was, picture this, both hands engaged
With the main-royal, studding-tack betwixt
My teeth. A major breakthrough with the men.
Imagine me, the seasick note-scribbler,
Ensconced in quarter-deck tomfoolery,
Allowed in sacred precincts, bawdy tales
Fantastic with the lies of otherwise
A fiddler. Funny fellow, this one is—
Up to one thing or another all day.
Mostly tinkering. Occasionally
He helps me with my obsession—the birds.
Me and my man, Syms Covington, have caught
Some eighty species. Slit ‘em and gut ‘em
And jot yoor’n letters, he sings while we seive
The entrails through our fingers. What a joy
That Covington is.
What a bloody mess!
Where reptiles rule? Is all temptation moot?
All knowledge native? Where, Creator, hide
Your likenesses? Erasmus, get a load
Of this, because I’ve said nothing yet
Respecting their monstrosity:
A mere ten feet. Humdingers fourteen stone
At least. And damned disgusting iguanas—These clumsy imps of darkness.
I hear the grunts behind a hut—three, four,
Perhaps five heathens forswearing the laws
Of their Creator. Dipsomania
Abounds, all manner of vice oozes, seeps
Through street-ruts, pools and festers.
A woman wails. A missionary daubs
A single tear with a grime-stained sleeve.
I am on the verge myself. A child wails.A mongrel dog lies dead in our path,
Flies swarm the mange and feast. I cry.
Now FitzRoy takes my hand. Deluge—my tears
Like God’s bursted firmament. Heaven help
These creatures. Oh, Fitz, they need Christ.
I clomp through the Mauritian wilds.
The scenery bewitches. Oh, a sweet
Virginia would be nice. A lovely girl
For romance and idle nights beneath stars.
Cape Town—another little embryo
Of England hatching. Nations send their men
To lose their tongues and spend their hearts out.
Stone and tree, lava and river—to see;The temples nature built, that matters most . . .
More stirs in the chest of man than mere breath.