May Kendall

Taking Long Views (1887), by May Kendall


Nebula of Stars and Colorful Gas

His locks were wild, and wild his eye,
Furrowed his brow with anxious thought.
Musing I asked him: “Tell me why
You look thus vacant and distraught?”
Sadly he gazed into my face:
He said, “I have no respite, none!
Oh, shall we wander into space
Or fall into the sun?

“Astronomers I’ve sought in tears,
And ah, ’tis terribly remiss
That after all these anxious years
They cannot even tell us this!
Though each man seems to prove his case.
Each contradicts the other one,
And—do we wander into space
Or fall into the sun?”

“Comfort!” I said, “I can’t discern
The nature of our planet’s end,
Nor should I greatly care to learn.
We’ve many aeons left, my friend!
Whether we last from age to age
A frozen ball, or turn to flame,
To me, at this inspiring stage,
Is very much the same.

“Observe Humanity’s advance.
And Evolution’s giant strides!
Remark on what a smooth expanse
The nation’s barque at anchor rides!
The march of Intellect retrace.”
He moaned: “I don’t care what we’ve done.
Oh, shall we wander into space
Or fall into the sun?

“If we should fall, you understand,
Such heat the crash would generate
The solar system might expand
Into its primal gaseous state.
It would be awkward, I maintain,
The same old cycle to renew;
For once let things come round again.
And we should come round too!”

I cried: “The prophecy forbear!
Of finite woes we have enough.
What, travel through the old despair,
Experience the old rebuff!
I’d rather haunt the void Afar
For endless ages, would rejoice
To be a harmless frozen star,
If I might have my choice!”

He gazed at me with aspect strange.
He only said: “How would it be
If this poor planet should derange
The solar system’s equity;
If when the sun our planet met
The sun himself began to fall,
Another system to upset,
And so on through them all?”

“Peace, peace!” I said. “However dark
The destiny the aeons bear,
You won’t be here the wreck to mark.”
He cried: “That causes my despair.
I want to know what will take place,
I want to see what will be done,
Oh, shall we wander into space
Or fall into the sun?

Lay of the Trilobite (1885), by May Kendall

A mountain’s giddy height I sought,
Because I could not find
Sufficient vague and mighty thought
To fill my mighty mind;
And as I wandered ill at ease,
There chanced upon my sight
A native of Silurian seas,
An ancient Trilobite.

So calm, so peacefully he lay,
I watched him even with tears:
I thought of Monads far away
In the forgotten years.
How wonderful it seemed and right,
The providential plan,
That he should be a Trilobite,
And I should be a Man!

And then, quite natural and free
Out of his rocky bed,
That Trilobite he spoke to me
And this is what he said:
‘I don’t know how the thing was done,
Although I cannot doubt it;
But Huxley—he if anyone
Can tell you all about it;

‘How all your faiths are ghosts and dreams,
How in the silent sea
Your ancestors were Monotremes—
Whatever these may be;
How you evolved your shining lights
Of wisdom and perfection
From Jelly-Fish and Trilobites
By Natural Selection.

‘You’ve Kant to make your brains go round,
Hegel you have to clear them,
You’ve Mr Browning to confound,
And Mr Punch to cheer them!
The native of an alien land
You call a man and brother,
And greet with hymn-book in one hand
And pistol in the other!

‘You’ve Politics to make you fight
As if you were possessed:
You’ve cannon and you’ve dynamite
To give the nations rest:
The side that makes the loudest din
Is surest to be right,
And oh, a pretty fix you’re in!’
Remarked the Trilobite.

‘But gentle, stupid, free from woe
I lived among my nation,
I didn’t care—I didn’t know
That I was a Crustacean.
I didn’t grumble, didn’t steal,
I never took to rhyme:
Salt water was my frugal meal,
And carbonate of lime.’

Reluctantly I turned away,
No other word he said;
An ancient Trilobite, he lay
Within his rocky bed.
I did not answer him, for that
Would have annoyed my pride:
I merely bowed, and raised my hat,
But in my heart I cried:—

‘I wish our brains were not so good,
I wish our skulls were thicker,
I wish that Evolution could
Have stopped a little quicker;
For oh, it was a happy plight,
Of liberty and ease,
To be a simple Trilobite
In the Silurian seas!’