The Seven Seas/In the Neolithic Age

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First published in The Idler (December 1892) under the title "Primum Tempus".

IN THE NEOLITHIC AGE

In the Neolithic Age savage warfare did I wage
 For food and fame and two-toed horses' pelt;
I was singer to my clan in that dim, red Dawn of Man,
 And I sang of all we fought and feared and felt.


Yea, I sang as now I sing, when the Prehistoric spring
 Made the piled Biscayan ice-pack split and shove;
And the troll and gnome and dwerg, and the Gods of Cliff and Berg
 Were about me and beneath me and above.


But a rival, of Solutré, told the tribe my style was outré
 'Neath a hammer, grooved of dolomite, he fell.
And I left my views on Art, barbed and tanged, below the heart
 Of a mammothistic etcher at Grenelle.


Then I stripped them, scalp from skull, and my hunting dogs fed full,
 And their teeth I threaded neatly on a thong;
And I wiped my mouth and said, 'It is well that they are dead,
 For I know my work is right and theirs was wrong.'


But my Totem saw the shame; from his ridgepole shrine he came,
 And he told me in a vision of the night:—
'There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
 And every single one of them is right!'


· · · · · ·


Then the silence closed upon me till They put new clothing on me
 Of whiter, weaker flesh and bone more frail;
And I stepped beneath Time's finger, once again a tribal singer
 [And a minor poet certified by Tr—ll].


Still they skirmish to and fro, men my messmates on the snow,
 When we headed off the aurochs turn for turn;
When the rich Allobrogenses never kept amanuenses,
 And our only plots were piled in lakes at Berne.


Still a cultured Christian age sees us scuffle, squeak, and rage,
 Still we pinch and slap and jabber, scratch and dirk;
Still we let our business slide—as we dropped the half-dressed hide—
 To show a fellow-savage how to work.


Still the world is wondrous large,—seven seas from marge to marge,—
 And it holds a vast of various kinds of man;
And the wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Khatmandhu,
 And the crimes of Clapham chaste in Martaban.


Here's my wisdom for your use, as I learned it when the moose
 And the reindeer roared where Paris roars to-night:—
There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
 And—every—single—one—of—them—is—right!