09 November 2006

Watch out for the wall!

A Ballade of Evolution

By Grant Allen

In the mud of the Cambrian main
Did our earliest ancestor dive:
From a shapeless albuminous grain
We mortals our being derive.
He could split himself up into five,
Or roll himself round like a ball;
For the fittest will always survive,
While the weakliest go to the wall.

As an active ascidian again
Fresh forms he began to contrive,
Till he grew to a fish with a brain
And brought forth a mammal alive.
With his rivals he next had to strive
To woo him a mate and a thrall;
So the handsomest managed to wive,
While the ugliest went to the wall.

At length as an ape he was fain
The nuts of the forest to rive;
Till he took to the low-lying plain,
And proceeded his fellow to knive.
Thus did cannibal men first arrive,
One another to swallow and maul;
And the strongest continued to thrive,
While the weakliest went to the wall.

Printed at the end of Allen's long essay The evolutionist at large published in the November 1881 issue of the Humboldt Library of Popular Science Literature.

Allen's essay is available from Google Books as part of a large (70 MB) compilation called Christian Pamphlets. The inclusion of The evolutionist at large in that compilation is odd because Allen was an agnostic who strongly believed in evolution as his essay demonstrates.

Incidentally, Allen presents in his essay a surprisingly well argued discussion of the evolution of slugs from shelled snails.

1 comment:

Roger B. said...

You've probably already seen this video: www.metacafe.com/watch/35459/guinness_evolution/ but it's a kind of modern day "Ballade of Evolution".