Creative Writing, History, Natural World, Research

Huxley and Darwin meet Mary Anning’s Ghost

Huxley said to Darwin: see hear, can you believe it?

Darwin answered soundly, of course I can conceive it.

We men are not as masterful as we would like to be,

For life must claim all ancestry from some primordial sea.

That puts us on a par with beasts of sea and land and sky,

Not put in some old Eden by a God who rules on high.

We’re grown from cells and elements that fell from outer space,

We cannot claim that we are some superior human race.

I hear you, man. You speak as me, our work we can compare,

For I’ve been travelling southwards to far island countries where –

The creatures trapped on land have changed – evolved quite on their own,

Adapted to the trees and beasts their habitats have grown.

I hear you sir, for I have seen that chalk is formed of creatures

That fell through ancient salted seas some time in the Cretaceous.

The land we walk upon is just a small part of the cycle

Of birth and death and changing years, it’s really quite delightful.

We see through veils of gross untruths to search for something clearer,

And find ourselves enchanted by the mysteries we see here.

What will they say, the men on high, who rule with blinkered eyes,

When we tell them they’re descended from a line of chimpanzees?

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

PART TWO

Excuse me gents, says Anning, from her grave out in the west,

You’ve forgotten half the members of this race you’ve just discussed.

I was the first to find Jurassic fossils of the sea,

Though they said I could not join the club of men’s Geology.

You see, your evolution has no place at all unless

You remember whence a child came before it milked the breast

So when you’re talking of the greatest wonders of natural science,

Prepare to hear the women’s share, or else meet pure defiance.

From daughter, wife, and mother from sister, niece, and aunt,

Don’t act like you can’t hear us – we won’t give you the chance.

You must change this narrative, that claims a man alone can know

What happened in the predawn years when man – and woman – had not grown.

We’ll be doctors soon and scientists of palaeontology

And we’ll be searching for the answers in the beds below the sea.

So yes we’re listening out for knowledge and the wisdom born of man

But we’re listening too to knowledge and the wisdom born of womb.

Image References:

Charles Darwin’s Theory By Unknown author – Originally published in The Hornet magazine; this image is available on University College London Digital Collections (18886), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23436

Drawing of the skull of Temnodontosaurus (originally Ichthyosaurus) platyodon found by Joseph and Mary Anning, 1814, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 1814, Everard Home (1756-1832)

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