Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TO THE PLIOCENE SKULL, by FRANCIS BRET HARTE

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TO THE PLIOCENE SKULL, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Speak, o man, less recent! Fragmentary fossil!
Last Line: "home to old missouri!"
Alternate Author Name(s): Harte, Bret
Subject(s): Geology; Skulls

"SPEAK, O man, less recent! Fragmentary fossil!
Primal pioneer of pliocene formation,
Hid in lowest drifts below the earliest stratum
Of Volcanic tufa!

"Older than the beasts, the oldest Palaeotherium;
Older than the trees, the oldest Cryptogamia;
Older than the hills, those infantile eruptions
Of earth's epidermis!

"Eo -- Mio -- Plio -- whatsoe'er the 'cene' was
That those vacant sockets filled with awe and
wonder, --
Whether shores Devonian or Silurian beaches, --
Tell us thy strange story!

"Or has the Professor slightly antedated
By some thousand years the advent on this planet,
Giving thee an air that's somewhat better fitted
For cold-blooded creatures?

"Wert thou true spectator of that mighty forest,
When above thy head the stately Sigillaria
Reared its columned trunks in that remote and
Carboniferous epoch?

"Tell us of that scene, -- the dim and watery wood-
Songless, silent, hushed, with never bird or in-
Veiled with spreading fronds and screened with
tall club-mosses,
Lycopodiacea --

"When beside time walked the solemn Plesio-
And around thee crept the festive Ichthyosaurus,
While from time to time above thee flew and
Cheerful Pterodactyls.

"Tell us of thy food, -- those half-marine refec-
Crinoids on the shell, and Brachipods au natu-
rel, --
Cuttle-fish to which the pieuvre of Victor Hugo
Seems a periwinkle.

"Speak, thou awful vestige of the earth's crea-
tion, --
Solitary fragment of remains organic!
Tell the wondrous secrets of thy past existence, --
Speak! thou oldest primate!"

Even as I gazed, a thrill of the maxilla
And a lateral movement of the condyloid process,
With post-pliocene sounds of healthy mastica-
Ground the teeth together;

And from that imperfect dental exhibition,
Stained with expressed juices of the weed Nico-
Came these hollow accents, blent with softer
Of expectoration:

"Which my name is Bowers, and my crust was
Falling down a shaft, in Calaveras County,
But I'd take it kindly if you'd send the pieces
Home to old Missouri!"

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