Tuesday, April 7, 2009


In 1895 Langdon Smith, a member of the staff of the Sunday New York Herald, wrote the first few stanzas of his poem, "Evolution", and they were published in the Herald. Some four years later he came across the verses and was struck with their incompleteness, whereupon he composed additional stanzas, increasing the poem to his present length. At that time he was with the New York Journal. He submitted the poem to his editor, but when it was published it was found buried in a page of want ads. But the poem was destined for a bit of fame, and found its way into many other newspapers and magazines. It was widely quoted for a time, but was not seen lately. It follows in complete form:

By Langdon Smith (1858-1908)
When you were a tadpole and I was a fish In the Paleozoic time,And side by side on the ebbing tide We sprawled through the ooze and slime,Or skittered with many a caudal flip Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,My heart was rife with the joy of life, For I loved you even then.
Mindless we lived and mindless we loved And mindless at last we died;And deep in the rift of the Caradoc drift We slumbered side by side.The world turned on in the lathe of time, The hot lands heaved amain,Till we caught our breath from the womb of death And crept into life again.
We were amphibians, scaled and tailed, And drab as a dead man's hand;We coiled at ease 'neath the dripping trees Or trailed through the mud and sand.Croaking and blind, with our three-clawed feet Writing a language dumb,With never a spark in the empty dark To hint at a life to come.
Yet happy we lived and happy we loved, And happy we died once more;Our forms were rolled in the clinging mold Of a Neocomian shore.The eons came and the eons fled And the sleep that wrapped us fastWas riven away in a newer day And the night of death was passed.
Then light and swift through the jungle trees We swung in our airy flights,Or breathed in the balms of the fronded palms In the hush of the moonless nights;And oh! what beautiful years were there When our hearts clung each to each;When life was filled and our senses thrilled In the first faint dawn of speech.
Thus life by life and love by love We passed through the cycles strange,And breath by breath and death by death We followed the chain of change.Till there came a time in the law of life When over the nursing sodThe shadows broke and the soul awoke In a strange, dim dream of God.
I was thewed like an Auroch bull And tusked like the great cave bear;And you, my sweet, from head to feet Were gowned in your glorious hair.Deep in the gloom of a fireless cave, When the night fell o'er the plainAnd the moon hung red o'er the river bed We mumbled the bones of the slain.
I flaked a flint to a cutting edge And shaped it with brutish craft;I broke a shank from the woodland lank And fitted it, head and haft;Than I hid me close to the reedy tarn, Where the mammoth came to drink;Through the brawn and bone I drove the stone And slew him upon the brink.
Loud I howled through the moonlit wastes, Loud answered our kith and kin;From west to east to the crimson feast The clan came tramping in.O'er joint and gristle and padded hoof We fought and clawed and tore,And cheek by jowl with many a growl We talked the marvel o'er.
I carved that fight on a reindeer bone With rude and hairy hand;I pictured his fall on the cavern wall That men might understand.For we lived by blood and the right of might Ere human laws were drawn,And the age of sin did not begin Til our brutal tusks were gone.
And that was a million years ago In a time that no man knows;Yet here tonight in the mellow light We sit at Delmonico's.Your eyes are deep as the Devon springs, Your hair is dark as jet,Your years are few, your life is new, Your soul untried, and yet --
Our trail is on the Kimmeridge clay And the scarp of the Purbeck flags;We have left our bones in the Bagshot stones And deep in the Coralline crags;Our love is old, our lives are old, And death shall come amain;Should it come today, what man may say We shall not live again?
God wrought our souls from the Tremadoc beds And furnish’d them wings to fly;He sowed our spawn in the world's dim dawn, And I know that it shall not die,Though cities have sprung above the graves Where the crook-bone men made warAnd the ox-wain creaks o'er the buried caves Where the mummied mammoths are.
Then as we linger at luncheon here O'er many a dainty dish,Let us drink anew to the time when you Were a tadpole and I was a fish.

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