Evolution (Smith)

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When you were a tadpole and I was a fish
  In the Paleozoic time
And side by side on the sluggish 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, 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 its the lathe of time,
  The hot lands heaved amain,
Till we caught our breath from the womb of death
  And crept into life again.

Then we were amphibious, scaled and tailed,
  And deaf as a dead man's hand.
We sprawled at ease beneath the trees
  Or scrawled 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;
And our forms were rolled in the clinging mould
  Of a Neocomian shore.
The aeons came and the aeons fled,
  Till the sleep that wrapped us fast
Was driven away by the break of day
  And the sleep of death was past.

Then light and swift through the jungle trees
  We sped in our airy flights,
Or dreamed in the balm of the fronded palm
  In the hush of the moonlight nights.
And oh, what beautiful years were these
  When our hearts clung each to each
When life was thrilled and the senses filled
  With the first faint dawn of speech!

Then life by life and death by death
  We passed through the cycles strange,
And love by love and breath by breath
  We followed the chain of change,
Till there came a time in the law of life
  When o'er the reeking sod,
The shadows broke and the soul awoke
  In the first 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 main
And the moon hung red o'er the river bed
  We mumbled the bones of the slain.

For we lived by blood and the right of the might
  Ere human laws were drawn,
For the age of sin did not begin
  Till our brutish tusks were gone.
And that was a million years ago
  In an age that no man knows,
Yet here to-night in the mellow light
  We sit at Delmonico's.

Your eyes are as deep as the Devon springs,
  Your hair is black as jet.
Your years are few, your life is new,
  Your soul untried --- and yet;
Our trail is in the Kimmeredge clay,
  In the scarp of the Purbeck flags.
We have left our bones in the bagshot stones,
  And deep in the coralline crags.

Our life is old, our love is old,
 And death shall come a main.
Should he come to-day what man may say
 That we shall not meet again?
Then, as we sit at our dinner here
  O'er many dainty dish,
Let us drink anew to the time when you
  Were a tadpole and I was a fish.


This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.