Darwin's Bards: British and American Poetry in the Age of by John Holmes

By John Holmes

This can be a entire research of Darwin's Legacy for faith, ecology and the humanities. In Darwin's Bards John Holmes argues that poetry could have a profound influence on how we predict and consider concerning the human situation in a Darwinian global. together with over 50 entire poems and enormous extracts from a number of extra, Holmes exhibits how poets from Tennyson and Browning, via Hardy and Frost, to Ted Hughes, Pattiann Rogers and Edwin Morgan have replied to the invention of evolution. Written for scientists, philosophers and ecologists, in addition to poets, critics and scholars of literature, Darwin's Bards is a well timed intervention into the heated debates over Darwin's legacy for faith, ecology and the humanities. The publication will attract readers for its dialogue of the existential implications of Darwinism, for its shut readings of poetry, and for the reprinted poems themselves.

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The predominant English poets of the time were Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, born like Darwin in 1809, and Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, born in 1806 and 1812 respectively. Barrett Browning died in 1861, leaving no poetry responding to Darwin. For their part, Tennyson and Browning were already evolutionists when they read Darwin, and his world picture did not have a marked effect on their own. But while they may not have been influenced much by Darwin in their beliefs they nonetheless explored the theological implications and the psychological impact of his naturalistic world view in their poetry, particularly in the 1860s.

The Archaeopteryx’s Song’ is an excellent example of a poem which takes evolution as its theme, examining the myths people tell about it and satirising them for believing in them. Like ‘Eohippus’, it is far from earnest, but it has serious implications and is genuinely thought-provoking. Another of Morgan’s poems, inspired by yet another of the iconic creatures of evolutionary natural history, is more openly serious. This is ‘Trilobites’: A grey-blue slab, fanned like a pigeon’s wing, stands on my record cabinet between a lamp and a speaker.

And these iron teeth I want away, and a smooth beak to cut the air. And these claws on my wings, what use are they except to drag me down, do you imagine I am ever going to crawl again? When I first left that crag and flapped low and heavy over the ravine I saw past present and future like a dying tyrannosaur — 31 — d a r wi n’ s b a r d s and skimmed it with a hiss. I will teach my sons and daughters to live on mist and fire and fly to the stars. This poem responds to Darwinism in terms of evolution rather than natural selection.

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