September 8, 2010
I am by no means a connoisseur of poetry, but I have to admit that I can’t think of any decent poems about dinosaurs or paleontology. The poems that do exist can be almost painful to read, and, as Sarah Zielinski documented on our Surprising Science blog a few months ago, bad geological poetry has a long tradition going back to the early 19th century. Don’t just take my word for it; listed below are snippets from some dinosaur doggerel.
Edward Hitchcock – “The Sandstone Bird” (1836)
[In which the reanimated "Sandstone Bird" laments the sorry state of the modern world]
Oh how unlike Iguanodon next me
In dignity, yet moving at my nod.
The Mega-Plesi-Hylae- Saurian tribes-
Ranked next along the grand descending scale:
Testudo next below the Nautilus
The curious Ammonite and kindred forms,
All giants to the puny races here,
Scarce seen except by Ichthyosaurian eye,
Gone too the noble palms, the lofty ferns,
The Calamite, Stigmaria, Voltzia all:
And Oh! what dwarfs, unworthy of a name,
Iguanodon could scarce find here a meal!
Grow on their graves! Here, too, where ocean rolled,
Where coral groves the bright green waters graced,
Which glorious monsters made their frolic haunts,
Where strange Fucoides, strewed its very bed,
And fish of splendid forms and hues, ranged free,
A shallow brook troop, where only creatures live
Which in my day were Sauroscopic called,
Scarce visible, now creeps along the waste.
Charles H. Sternberg – “The Permian Beds of Texas” (1911)
The glory of this specimen—
He lies there as he floated in
With bloated body on the wave.
The gas escapes he found his grave,
As he sinks to his long rest,
Skin clinging fast to bone and breast.
Samuel Ward Loper – “A Modern Dinosaur” (1911)
A startling evolution,
Onrushing through the street;
A mighty, roaring monster,
And dangerous to meet -
Like something supernatural
With fiercely blazing eyes,
And breath of vilest odor
That all around it lies
Bert Leston Taylor – “The Dinosaur” (1911)
Behold the mighty Dinosaur,
Famous in prehistoric lore,
Not only for his weight and strength
But for his intellectual length.
You will observe by these remains
The creature had two sets of brains—
One in his head (the usual place),
The other at his spinal base.
Thus he could reason a priori
As well as a posteriori.
Carl Sandburg – “The Dinosaur Bones” (1921)
The dinosaur bones are dusted every day.
The cards tell how old we guess the dinosaur bones are.
Here a head was seven feet long, horns with a hell of a ram.
Humping the humps of the Montana mountains.
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