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Images of Darwin, Post-1859

1859: The year the ponderously titled On The Origin of
Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the
Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle For Life
was published.

A fat, combed beard mimes fluffed white wool
While in a pose of gravitas
That at that time was usual—
The God-right presence of his class.

He’d sit through winters, sure and warm,
Beard hair tucked round chin and chest—
And this at length becomes his norm—
A deep and thoughtful sage at rest.

Through garden, hothouse, chicken coop
He marks up life’s set ways and quirks
But never brews Primordial Soup,
That’s from a later writer’s works.

His scrambled nests of hair-thin thoughts
That strangle Genesis and Christ
Are served as aperitifs of sorts
Or plates of flesh and plant, fine-diced:

Hors d’oeuvres or starters for a feast,
Meticulously noted peeks
At worm and barnacle and beast,
Orchids, rodents, finches’ beaks.

But the main meal’s only smell,
The smoke of promised food that’s shrill,
That doesn’t wholly turn out well,
A fluffed merengue that doesn’t fill.

Each observation goes so far—
Then stops. The origin’s not reached.
Though piled with produce from afar,
The banquet’s platter’s holed and breached.

He has a menu, beard, and bib,
Sits and eats with due concern,
Sincere and humble, seldom glib,
Always at work so all can learn.

It’s lucky Darwin kept to books
With beard to keep his throat well-scarved
For if his work had been a cook’s
His well-kept family would have starved.

.

.

Redbeards

Karl Marx had a bigger beard than Engels.
Engles had a bigger beard than Lenin.
Lenin had a bigger beard than Stalin
Who had no beard, just a lip of wangles.

Stalin’s ’stache was two huge laughing roaches
That he hoped showed him more a man than Mao
Whose smooth moon face, full udder of a cow,
Has been the hook for followers’ approaches:

So Bosses of the Party go clean-shaven
(Though they’re not clean inside nor anywhere).
They frown on full-flown forms of facial hair,
Use cut-throat blades to keep their image graven:

The CCP’s so scared of losing face,
Its leaders won’t leave one hair out of place.

.

.

Damian Robin is a writer and editor living in the United Kingdom.


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13 Responses

  1. James A. Tweedie

    Damian,

    Fun poetry, today. Using hirsuteness as a means to satirical mockery might well be genius, but if nothing else, it is certainly inspired! If there is one thing despots loathe and fear more than anything else, it is ridicule.

    And your closing couplet in the second poem says it better than I can!

    Reply
  2. Paul Freeman

    Yes, most tyrants do tend to be vain, and especially attentive to their facial hair. Sadam Hussein was surrounded by toadies imitating his luxurious lip caterpillar.

    Thanks for the reads.

    Reply
  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    In the second poem, the surname should be spelled Engels, unless of course you are being humorous in the manner of Ogden Nash.

    Hitler had his famous short “smudge” mustache, which was actually a product of World War I trench warfare, when many German soldiers shaved off the long extremities of their Wilhelmine mustaches for hygiene and convenience.

    Reply
  4. Damian Robin

    [Mike has changed the spell mistook, thanks for your observations, Joe.]

    I didn’t know this about Hitler’s moustache [UK English/French spelling}. It’s also said that they cut their tashes to fit into gas masks. There’s a nice pic of Adolf with a longer moustache here https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/hitler_adolf

    On Wikipedia, it says the toothbrush moustashe ” became popular in the United States in the late 19th century; from there it spread to Germany and elsewhere”. Charlie Chaplin and Oliver Hardy had these moustaches before WW1. But I’m sure Adolf would have kept his crew-cut-like face hair crop to tie him to his war career (which is slightly debunked in the above link)

    ‘huge laughing cockroaches’ is from Osip Mandelstam’s “The Stalin Epigram”
    https://poets.org/poem/stalin-epigram.

    Reply
  5. Damian Robin

    A few footnotes on the golompagosly-titled “On The Origin of
    Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the
    Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle For Life”:

    In general conversation it is sometimes called ‘Origin of THE Species’ meaning OUR species, humankind. But human development is hardly mentioned in this book. Nor does the word ‘evolution’ or the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ appear in the early editions. Darwin was cunningly cautious.

    The book went through six editions during Darwin’s life, each different to the others. The last one dropped ‘On’ from the title so it became ‘The Origin of Species’, making it sound more self-confident and authoritative.

    Reply
  6. Evan Mantyk

    Thank you for the poems, Damian. I love the subtlety in the first and the concluding couplet in the sonnet is perfectly and rightly stinging. Well done!

    Reply
  7. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Damian, I love these quirky poetic observations – I had no idea facial hair could be so inspirational. I especially like the witty reference to “Primordial Soup” in the third stanza of “Images of Darwin, Post-1859”. Thank you!

    Reply
  8. Margaret Coats

    Damian, good fun in both. Seeing the concern with food in “Images of Darwin,” I begin to think of him as a sloppy eater who saved little droppings in his beard for snacks. Maybe the beard was an evolutionary necessity because his wife or cook would not feed him between meals. Was it reddish at first?

    “Redbeards” brings to mind the prototype Bluebeard, serial killer who hid corpses in a secret chamber. How apropos! He got away with grisly murder for a long time, until the seventh intended victim brought her family to her aid, and succeeded in killing Bluebeard and going on to re-marry. No wonder Redbeards strive for secrecy and hate the family. May the family and its values defeat the Redbeards at last, and the survivors have a happy honeymoon. The couplet on saving face certainly applies to Kim Il Sung and Pol Pot, but let us beware full-bearded Westerners like Castro.

    Reply
    • Damian Robin

      Good questions, Margaret. Perhaps his beard harboured enough crumbs to attract feathered friends and led to copying Bird’s Nest Soup.

      I hope you return to this page and click on the link below — you may like the many versions of Bluebeard from around the world and also the illustrations.
      https://www.terriwindling.com/blog/2019/07/bluebeard.html

      Thank you, go well.

      Reply
      • Margaret Coats

        Thanks, Damian. A good summary of various stories, and a wonderful collection of illustrations for them! You, going down a different path, have made a contribution to this folklore tradition, invoking its exceptional horror to remind us of real ongoing horrors attributable to communism.

  9. Mike Bryant

    Damian, both of these poems are inspired and wonderfully quirky.
    Also, some person named “asdf” keeps commenting here on your poem. Since the comments seem to be meant for some other website, I have deleted them, Mike the Moderator

    Reply
    • Damian Robin

      Thank you so much, Mike the Mod,
      For your comment on my prod-
      duction and for your long persistence
      in keeping clear this site’s existence.

      One post got through, it mentioned ‘god’.
      Thank you for your diligence,
      Your common sense, and vigilance,
      Not all is good that mentions ‘god’.

      Go well, stout heart!

      Reply

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