The Fossil Elephant

Original Text: 
Mary Howitt, Sketches of Natural History (London: Effingham Wilson, 1834): 19-22. Facsimile Edition, introduction by Carolyn Whiteside (New York: Johnson Reprint, 1970). PR 4809 H2S55 1834a Robarts Library.
1The earth is old! Six thousand years,
2    Are gone since I had birth;
3In the forests of the olden time,
4    And the solitudes of earth.
5We were a race of mighty things;
6    The world was all our own.
7I dwelt with the Mammoth large and strong,
9No ship went over the waters then,
10    No ship with oar or sail;
11But the wastes of the sea were habited
12    By the Dragon and the Whale.
14    Abode, a creature grim;
15And the scaled Serpents huge and strong
16    Coiled up in the waters dim.
17The wastes of the world were all our own;
18    A proud, imperial lot!
19Man had not then dominion given,
20    Or else we knew it not.
21There was no city on the plain;
22    No fortress on the hill;
23No mighty men of strength, who came
24    With armies up, to kill.
25There was no iron then -- no brass --
26    No silver and no gold;
27The wealth of the world was in its woods,
28    And its granite mountains old.
29And we were the kings of all the world
30    We knew its breadth and length;
31We dwelt in the glory of solitude,
32    And the majesty of strength.
33But suddenly came an awful change!
34    Wherefore, ask not of me;
35That it was, my desolate being shews, --
36    Let that suffice for thee.
37The Mammoth huge and the Mastodon
38    Were buried beneath the earth;
39And the Hydra and the Serpents strong,
40    In the caves where they had birth!
41There is now no place of silence deep,
42    Whether on land or sea;
43And the Dragons lie in the mountain-rock ,
44    As if for eternity!
45And far in the realms of thawless ice,
46    Beyond each island shore,
47My brethren lie in the darkness stern
48    To awake to life no more!
49And not till the last conflicting crash
50    When the world consumes in fire,
51Will their frozen sepulchres be loosed,
52    And their dreadful doom expire!


8] Mastodon: giant mammal with molar teeth larger than those of any existing animal. Back to Line
13] Hydra: many-headed serpent killed by Hercules, or possibly a form of the modern tubular polyp we call the hydra, which has tentacles surrounding its mouth. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1999.