El Bicentenario de Darwin produce buena poesía

12 de Febrero de 1809 fue el nacimiento de Dawin y este año se publican numerosos trabajos sobre su vida y obra.  Menos esperable son los libros de poesía

El más notable es Darwin  A Life in Poems.  Escrito por Ruth Padel que es descendiente de Darwin este es un libro de poemas y a veces un libro de poesía.

Lo disfrutará más quienes de Darwin su vida sus viajes sus trabajos más saben.  Padel incluye notas al margen, eso le da un aire aún más victoriano.

En apenas 141 páginas hay un número de soberbios poemas. Notables son «Plankton», «A Quarrel in Bahia Harbour», «The Thumbscrew of Rio».

Padel continúa una tradición familiar que antecede al mismo Charles Darwin, pues su abuelo Erasmus Darwin escribió un notable poema descriptivo sobre la evolución: ¡Ya se conocía el darwinismo antes de Charles Darwin y el Origen de las Especies!

Unos cuantos de los poemas de Padel a continuación. Para hacer boca y estimular su compra.


(from Chapter Two: Journey (1831-1836)

The deck is dazzle, fish-stink, gauze-covered buckets.
Gelatinous ingots, rainbows of wet flinching amethyst
and flubbed, iridescent cream. All this
means he’s better; and working on a haul of lumpen light.

Polyps, plankton, jellyfish. Sea butterflies, the pteropods.
‘So low in the scale of nature, so exquisite in their forms!
You wonder at so much beauty – created,
apparently, for such little purpose!’ They lower his creel

to blue pores of subtropical ocean. Wave-flicker, white
as a gun-flash, over the blown heart of sapphire.
Peacock eyes, beaten and swollen,
tossing on lazuline steel.

[ Enero, 1832.  El Beagle dirección al Sur, hacia las Islas de Cabo Verde ]

A Quarrel in Bahia Harbour

(from Chapter Two: Journey (1831-1836)

He heard how it felt to walk in jungle first
from John Edmonstone. His teacher, the freed slave.
Now, in this city on a pink-lit bay, lightning
snaps beneath his feet. He sees the slaves
themselves. Auctions. Blows. Humanity betrayed.
His waistcoat crackles with static. In the marl
of a river crossing, to make sure the ferry-pilot,
a tall black slave, knows where he needs to go,
he explains a little louder – as you do –
and waves his hands. Terrified, the fellow shuts his eyes.
‘He thought I was in a passion and meant to strike!
I shall never forget my shame and my surprise
at seeing a great, powerful man afraid
even to ward off a blow
directed, he thought, at his face. He was trained

to degradation lower than the most helpless animal!’
But Captain Fitzroy thinks different.
He’s seen a plantation-owner ask his slaves
if they wanted to be free – ‘And they said «No!»‘
Does saying it to their master’s face prove anything?

‘We cannot live together if you doubt my word!’
The Captain bangs out of the cabin
and curses him, on deck, all evening.
Will he have to leave the boat? Fitzroy sends apologies.
They never speak of slavery again.

[ En Marzo 1832 Darwin discute con el Capitán FitzRoy. La familia Darwin era abolicionista de la esclavitud de los negros, que se había prohibido en Inglaterra (1772) y sus colonias (1806)  Hay quien opina que Darwin escribió su libro para eliminar para siempre la idea odiosa de la superioridad de la raza blanca. ]

More Funny Ideas About Grandeur

(from Chapter Four: Emma (1838-1851)

‘To Emma, in case of my sudden death.
I have just finished this sketch
of my species theory. If true, as I believe,
it will be a considerable step
in science. My most solemn last request
is that you devote 400 pounds
to its publication.’

‘There is grandeur, if you look
at every organic being
as the lineal successor of some other form,
now buried under thousands of feet of rock.
Or else as a co-descendant, with that buried form,
from some other inhabitant of this world
more ancient still, now lost.

Out of famine, death and struggle for existence,
comes the most exalted end
we’re capable of conceiving: creation
of the higher animals!
Our first impulse is to disbelieve –
how could any secondary law
produce organic beings, infinitely numerous,

characterized by most exquisite
workmanship and adaptation?
Easier to say, a Creator designed each.
But there is a simple grandeur in this view –
that life, with its power to grow, to reach, feel,
reproduce, diverge, was breathed
into matter in a few forms first

and maybe only one. To say that while this planet
has gone cycling on
according to fixed laws of gravity,
from so simple an origin, through selection
of infinitesimal varieties, endless forms
most beautiful and wonderful
have been, and are being, evolved.’

The Descent of Man

I Think I shall Dislike it Very Much

(from Chapter Five: The coat of fur (1851-1882))

He’s glad they’re out there, young scientists,
giving the world his argument. It’s out, it’s done –
and he’s spent nine years on plants.
Now The Descent of Man and Selection
in Relation to Sex
. He’s got to state, at last,
his vision of 1838, before they married.
‘I shall be well abused.’ She studies the first draft.

‘I think it will be very interesting, but I
shall dislike it very much. It is again putting God
even farther off.’ He thinks of an orang-utang
in a pink frock and frills, looking in his eyes,
being generous. Opening his palm
to gift her treasure to him. Many moments in this marriage
have been saved – by both of them – with laughs.

‘The Miser’

Cross the Welsh Bridge out of town, go up the hill
on Frankwell Street and you’ll see, above the Severn,
brick pillars with the sandy bloom of an ageing dog.
Around the back, Father’s surgery and waiting-room.

Outside, the Stable Yard: hay chutes, a piggery and toolshed.
Lower down, a bothy on the river bank
where plates of jagged ice, harvested in winter from the river,
lean one against the other. A dairy where these blocks are dragged

to cool the milk and cream. The Quarry Pool
where he fishes for newts and tadpoles.
Collecting: to assert control
over what’s unbearable. To gather and to list.

«Stones, coins, franks, insects, minerals and shells.»
Collect yourself: to smother what you feel,
recall to order, summon in one place.
Make a system, like Orpheus, in the face of loss.

‘Like Giving to a Blind Man Eyes’

He’s standing in Elysium. Palm feathers, a green
dream of fountain against blue sky. Banana fronds,
slack rubber rivulets, a canopy of waterproof tearstain
over his head. Pods and racemes of tamarind.
Follicle, pinnacle; whorl, bole and thorn.

«I expected a good deal. I had read Humboldt
and was afraid of disappointment.»
What if he’d stayed at home? «How utterly vain
such fear is, none can tell but those who have seen
what I have today.» A small rock off Africa —

and alone with his enchantment. So much and so unknown.
Like taking a new-born baby in your arms. «Not only the grace
of forms and rich new colours: it’s the numberless —
& confusing — associations rushing on the mind
that produce the effect.» He walks through hot damp air

and tastes it like the breath of earth; like blood.
He is possessed by chlorophyll. By the calls of unknown birds.
He wades into sea and scares an octopus. It puffs black hair
at him, turns red — as hyacinth — and darts for cover.
He sees it watching. He’s discovered

something wonderful! He tests it against coloured card
and the sailors laugh. They know that girly blush!
He feels a fool — but look, he’s touched Volcanic rock
for the first time. And Coral on its native stone.
«Often at Edinburgh have I gazed at little pools

of water left by tide. From tiny Corals of our shores
I pictured larger ones. Little did I know how exquisite,
still less expect my hope of seeing them to come true.
Never, in my wildest castles of the air, did I imagine this.»
Lava must once have streamed over the sea-floor here,

baking shells to white hard rock. Then a subterranean force
pushed everything up to make an island. His first evidence
of Volcano! Vegetation he’s never seen, every step a new surprise.
«New insects, fluttering about still newer flowers. It has been
for me a glorious day, like giving to a blind man eyes.»
‘Algae from the Arctic’

On high trails, the mules leave scarlet dints in snow
as if their feet had bled. He scoops up the wet red
and rubs it. It isn’t claret dust of porphyry, blown
from peaks of the Peuquenes. Nor granite
from the blue-roan Portillo ridge. No —

none of this heart-sweeping geology, the Cordillera —
ashy wind, guanaco flocks
and level-soaring condors
which have bewitched him on this jaunt
to the interior. (He’s done so many, now.)

«I felt glad I was by myself. Bright-coloured rocks,
profound valleys, heaped ruins
and wild broken forms — like watching
a thunderstorm or hearing in full Orchestra
a chorus from The Messiah

In the microscope, ruby specks glow
in ice the mules have squashed. «Like eggs
of small molluscous animals.» Or midget ticks
full of blood. With Covington, he posts them off
to Cambridge — to be identified as algae, from the Arctic.

‘On Not Thinking About Variation in Tortoise-Shell’

Pure volcano. A mantle of hot bare rock. «Nothing could be less
inviting. A broken field of black basaltic lava
thrown into most rugged waves and crossed
by fissures.» Lava tubes, tuff cones and bright,
red-orange crabs. A land iguana! One saffron
leathery elbow, powdery as lichen, sticking out

like a man doing press-ups while leering at the sand.
And the marine iguana … «Hideous! An imp of darkness.
On Albermarle they seem to grow to a larger size.»
Young sea lions nip their tails for fun and fling them in the air
like cats with mice. To eat them? No — nothing here,
except one hawk, is carnivore; and none afraid of Man.

Look — giant tortoises! «Travelling eagerly, their necks
outstretched, to springs. I tried riding on their backs
but found it hard to balance! The colony’s Vice-Governor
told us he knew which island any shell came from
because they differ. I did not for some time
pay this enough attention. I never dreamed

that islands sixty miles apart, made of the same stone,
of nearly equal height in the same climate,
could have different tenants.» Fast forward twenty years
and you see him write of this scatter-burst of rock in open sea,
«We seem brought near that mystery of mysteries,
the first appearance of new beings on the earth.»

Por Armando

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