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- When you were a tadpole and I was a fish
- In the Paleozoic time,
- And side by side on the ebbing 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 and 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 the lathe of time,
- The hot lands heaved amain,
- Till we caught our breath from the womb of death
- And crept into light again.
- We were amphibians, scaled and tailed,
- And drab as a dead man's hand;
- We coiled at ease 'neath the dripping trees
- Or trailed 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;
- Our forms were rolled in the clinging mold
- Of a Neocomian shore.
- The eons came and the eons fled
- And the sleep that wrapped us fast
- Was riven away in the newer day
- And the night of death was past.
- Then light and swift through the jungle trees
- We swung in our airy flights,
- Or breathed in the balms of the fronded palms
- In the hush of the moonless nights;
- And oh! what beautiful years were there
- When our hearts clung each to each;
- When life was filled and our senses thrilled
- In the first faint dawn of speech.
- Thus life by life and love by love
- We passed through the cycles strange,
- And breath by breath and death by death
- We followed the chain of change.
- Till there came a time in the law of life
- When over the nursing side
- The shadows broke and the soul awoke
- In a strange, 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 plain
- And the moon hung red o'er the river bed
- We mumbled the bones of the slain.
- I flaked a flint to a cutting edge
- And shaped it with brutish craft;
- I broke a shank from the woodland lank
- And fitted it, head and haft;
- Then I hid me close to the reedy tarn,
- Where the mammoth came to drink;
- Through the brawn and bone I drove the stone
- And slew him upon the brink.
- Loud I howled through the moonlit wastes,
- Loud answered our kith and kin;
- From west to east to the crimson feast
- The clan came tramping in.
- O'er joint and gristle and padded hoof
- We fought and clawed and tore,
- And cheek by jowl with many a growl
- We talked the marvel o'er.
- I carved that fight on a reindeer bone
- With rude and hairy hand;
- I pictured his fall on the cavern wall
- That men might understand.
- For we lived by blood and the right of might
- Ere human laws were drawn,
- And the age of sin did not begin
- Till our brutal tush was gone.
- And that was a million years ago
- In a time that no man knows;
- Yet here tonight in the mellow light
- We sit at Delmonico's.
- Your eyes are deep as the Devon springs,
- Your hair is dark as jet,
- Your years are few, your life is new,
- Your soul untried, and yet --
- Our trail is on the Kimmeridge clay
- And the scarp of the Purbeck flags;
- We have left our bones in the Bagshot stones
- And deep in the Coralline crags;
- Our love is old, our lives are old,
- And death shall come amain;
- Should it come today, what man may say
- We shall not live again?
- God wrought our souls from the Tremadoc beds
- And furnished them wings to fly;
- He sowed our spawn in the world's dim dawn,
- And I know that I shall not die,
- Though cities have sprung above the graves
- Where the crook-bone men make war
- And the oxwain creaks o'er the buried caves
- Where the mummied mammoths are.
- Then as we linger at luncheon here
- O'er many a dainty dish,
- Let us drink anew to the time when you
- Were a tadpole and I was a fish.
- Langdon Smith
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