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Evolution -- Langdon Smith

Guest poem submitted by Jose de Abreu:
(Poem #550) Evolution
 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 a 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 soul awoke
  In a strange, dim dream of God.

 I was thewed like an Auruch 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 and 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 check 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 were 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;
 We sowed our spawn in the world's dim dawn,
  And I know that it 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
I was just surfing around and came across this poem... really unusual for a love
poem, I felt. So I thought it might look good on Minstrels:-) The catch being
that I couldn't find much in the way of bio details on the poet, or any other
poems but this one.


Bio (all I could find!)

 ... one such individual, unknown even among biologists, is British naturalist
Langdon Smith, who conducted excellent biological research, and also wrote
exquisite poetry. Smith was born in Scotland in 1877, and came to the United
States when he was 14. Practically nothing is known about his education, except
that in his early twenties he was engaged by the Museum of Natural History in
New York to do research, and that he was often invited by scientific societies
to lecture. He also wrote articles on scientific subjects for newspapers. He
wrote a particularly beautiful poem about evolution titled "A Tadpole and a
Fish." A friend of his found this poem, which Smith had carelessly laid aside,
and recognized it as something exceptional. He prevailed upon Smith to submit
the poem to some of the best papers for an opinion. The first to examine the
poem was the editor of the New York Herald, who gave Smith a check for $500, a
considerable sum in those times, for the right to publish it. Smith became ill
and returned to England, where he died some months later of tuberculosis. The
poem was later published under the title "Evolution" in 1909 and was included in
anthologies published in 1922 and 1924.

121 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

AFrannk said...

I heard this poem for the first time, about 40 years ago. I have since
looked for it, off and on, but have never found a copy of it until now.
Thank you so much for including it in your list.
Frank Farmer

Chris_and_Lauren Magaldi said...

My favorite poem! I found it a couple of years ago and fell in love with
it. Thank you for including it.

Shrmpee said...


As a collector or unusual and rare books and poems I stumbled across a hard
bound copy of EVOLUTION and was also intriqued by it's beauty and subject
matter. The copy I found was in pretty good shape in a Utica, New York attic
home and owned by a reader dating it 1913. Copyright on the slim volume is
1909 by L.E. Basset and Company, Boston. The forward and aft was written by
Lewis Allen Browne and gives more insight into the poet and accomplishments
of Smith. The forward mentions that he was born in Kentucky in 1858, but no
mention of his birth in Scotland as reported. He served in the Comanche and
Apache wars as a trooper and reported these campaigns to the New York Herald
paper. He also went to Cuba as a correspondent for the Herald. He wrote "On
the Pan Handle"- a novel. If anyone has info on this book, I'd be interested!
Anyone can write me for more.

VeggyStan said...

Very romantic poem. My Ex-wife and I both loved it (as Agnostics). But she's
gone and all I have is the beauty of the words.

Carl Fredholm said...

I found this poem about four years ago in the poetry book, A Treasury of the Familiar, and I've loved it from that day forward. Thank you for putting it on the net.

glady morgan

Gene Thorne said...

The bio given above by Jose for the author differs sharply from the one
given by Martin Gardner (of Scientific American fame) in his essay "When
You Were a Tadpole and I was a Fish". This essay was originally printed in
the Antioch Review for Fall 1962 and reprinted in Gardner's Order and
Surprise (Oxford University Press 1984) - which is where I read it.
According to Smith's bio in Who's Who in America 1906-07, Smith was born on
January 4, 1858 in Kentucky. For more details please see the essay, but
interestingly Smith spent most of his career as a journalist for various
newspapers, including the New York Herald. This is about the only common
factor I see between Gardner's and Jose's bios. There are enough
differences that I am sure Jose's Smith and Gardner's Smith are two
different people. I have no idea which one really wrote the poem, but I
would love to know more details. Jose, what is the source of your
biographical sketch?

Lars_Olof.Bjorn said...

I have known and loved "Evolution" for a long time. I first encountered
it in "The Pocket Book of Popular Verse" printed in New York in 1945. It
is one of the most beautiful love poems I know. I made a Swedish
translation and read it at my wife's PhD graduation luncheon; this
translation has since been published with illustrations in the journal
Forskning och Framsteg (1986, issue 2) and reprinted in another journal.
In connection with this publication I found some other material
concerning the poem in our university library. There is a German and a
Danish translation, but I remember that I did not think that they are
very good and not accurate. Smith wrote his poem during many years, and
he read it at his wife's birthday at Delmonico's restaurant in New York,
which explains the fourth stanza from the end. I hope that Delmonico's
have the poem on the wall (if the restaurant still exists); we do in our
university department.

Lars Olof Bjorn, retired botany professor

Dawn Marie Bowles said...

I've only been able to find "Evolution" in The Best Loved Poems of the American People published in 1936 by Doubleday. It is one of the first poems I remember reading growing up. Who knows, perhaps it was subconscious inspiration for my love of biology AND romance. My family's copy of the book is tattered and torn now but no matter where I go I carry it with me. Thank you for putting "Evolution" on the net so that more people can enjoy it. Maybe we can start a trend and then find out more about Langdon Smith.

Tombtome said...

Beautiful! My father used to quote part of this poem at the dinner table, as
an admonition to better manners. Thank you, thank you.

dlhinkel said...

I went in search of this poem after reminiscing about my recently deceased
grandfather. When I was about ten, we were down in his old farm gravel
pit. I found some sort of fossil in one of the rocks, and he recited the
entire thing, word for word. This was not unusual, he could do this with
countless poems. I can still remember the feeling it gave me to hear him
spout off the words as if he had written them himself. Thanks for posting it.

DL Hinkel, Student

Lee Motteler said...

Like D.L. Hinkel, my grandfather (who died in 1956) knew this poem in its entirety and quoted it often. As with many poems and spirituals he had memorized, he did not recall the title. Years later my scholarly older brother found it and proceeded to memorize it himself! I have a couple of tantalizing tidbits to add to the data on Langdon Smith. First of all, the copy I found some years ago and photocopied (sorry, I don't have the provenance) is preceded by this editor's note: "The author of this curious poem was a New York journalist, who had formerly been a telegraph operator. Strange to say, this is the only poem of distinction that he is known (to me) to have written." I'm afraid that's not much help, and still doesn't solve the riddle of just who he was. The 4th edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1992), under Langdon Smith on page 651, cites the first four lines of the poem, followed by the source, listed as follows: 'A Toast to a Lady' in The Scrap-Book April 1906. So the poem's title apparently went through an evolution of its own. Some toast, eh? I don't know where my grandfather first read it, but I'm quite sure it was soon after it was published, as he was about 30 at that time. I have rarely had a poem affect me the way this one does every time I read it. Let's keep digging (and surfing), and perhaps we'll learn more!
Aloha from Hawaii

Zane C. Motteler said...

I am the "scholarly older brother" mentioned above by Lee.
As Lee says, our grandfather frequently quoted "Evolution", along
with many other poems. He had a photographic memory and
needed to read something only once to have it by heart for
the rest of his life. I found "Evolution" in a paperback collection
of poems when I was a boy in the 1940's or 50's. I memorized
it myself, and can still recite the whole thing, but unlike Granddad,
I don't have a photographic memory, so it took me a while to
learn it. The book that I got it from is long gone, but my memory
of the poem is strong. I quoted it to my wife when we were
courting, and I still recite parts of it to her. It is indeed a beautiful
love poem.


vze48pzr said...

Just wanted to read this poem. My favorite of all times. We're moving and all my books are packed. Thanks.

eaariniello said...

THanks for resurrecting this poem,I had it memorized in high school in the 50's.I have shared it with every woman I ever loved.They all appreciated it.I have need of it again so am glad it came up quickly on my search.Good Bio on Smith as well.

Martin and Melinda Meadows said...

Funny thing about this poem. I discovered it in the mid 1980-s while in
college. I enjoyed it very much and memorized it word for word. One of my
favorite poems. Over the years I began to forget portions of it and began
trying to relocate it. With the advent of the world wide web in the 1990's I
began using search engines to find it (I couldn't recall the author's name).
I've searched once or twice in the past couple of years ... and this morning
something prompted me to look for it again. I was pleased and surprised to
find this website today. I won't forget the author's name again! Thanks!

Martin Meadows

paul alford said...

I am an American Indian (Shawnee) When I was growing up my Father would recite this poem when we were camping. It became a part of me. Thanks for sharing.

Kevin M. Sullivan said...

Long ago, during the mid-1960's, Jean Shepherd, a brilliant writer and storyteller, had a nightly radio program on WOR in New York City. His on-the-air reading of "Evolution" was the first time I heard (or heard of) this poem. In 1968, I purchased a copy of a book titled "The Best Loved Poems of the American People" and was delighted to find "Evolution" printed there.

I still have the book, and I still love the poem.

ChevyHarley765 said...

Evolution has been one of my favorite poems for years. My mom read it to me
when I was young and it has stuck with me for a long time. I have most of it
memorized, but finding a page like this reminds me that there are some
people that you are just meant to know or be with. It is a reaffirmation of
all of my beliefs. Thanks for having the page!


Robert Magoffin said...

I was introduced to Evolution by my grandfather: he recited it
magnificently--it held me spellbound. Then he told me that he recited it
to my grandmother when he proposed to her, one night when they were having
dinner. The rest is family history. To hear it spoken in all it's
splendor is a moving, indelible experience.

Teresa Kintner Gunnell said...

Just like so many others, I found this poem as a child. My father's copy of "Treasury of the Familiar" was all but memorized by me when I was little, and I still miss that book. My friend Martin (yes, *that* Martin!) quoted this the other day and I had a rush of memory. Thank goodness (again and again) for the Minstrels.


Progres51 said...

I found a nice 1909 copy of Langston's Evolution just the other day. It's in
great shape, and the poem is indeed beautiful. This was actually my first
encounter with one of his books, so it's a pleasant surprise. My book is in good
condition and nicely illustrated. On 3/9/1936 someone wrote on the first page
"To the 'Superlative Tadpole," from a 'Poor Old Fish." The poem is a nice find

apbjvb said...

My mother (born l886) told me that my father had quoted this poem to her
when they were courting. She married him (nine years later)--but then
"Evolution" is a lengthy process. Thanks for making it available. We
are using it for a Poetry Reading on Valentine's Day at our Unitarian

Arthur burgess said...

My father read this poem to my mother (she told me)--some 85 years ago.
She married him nine years later--but then "Evolution" i s a slow

Lynn Koiner said...

I first heard this poem read to my elementary school class in the 1950s by a NUN! When I was in college, I found this poem at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. I wrote it down by hand. In the late 1990s, I copied it onto a computer that subsequently died. I felt that this poem was lost to me.
I am so grateful that it is on the Internet. It is my favorite. Yet, it was listed as being written by Anonymous.
Lynn Koiner

Goodier Family said...

Although this appears as a sweet and romantic poem, it disgusted me that
evolution was taken as fact and a work of God. Rather, God made us all as
humans, not any other way, and our relationship with Him and others is, to
me, so much more romantic!

Loveratheart47f said...

"Evolution" by Langdon Smith connects us all through time, space and transcends, comforts and quiets the voice of our inner wailing child
that anguishes over the destiny of it's own "end"...My sadness at having to live
a solitary life apart from siblings that prefer to remain estranged has been
unfortunate and hurtful throughout my years but "Evolution" has inspired me to
write and dedicate the following to them: Let us meet in the woods and find
our souls among the evergreens, where the earth is our mother and the wind our
father, we can roam, our spirits free, rejoice in our lives, in what we have
learned and cherish how far we have come, and love one another for what we have
been and what we have yet to become, stand close to the fire and away from
the chill, and let the warmth sink in, and if we should part, to never
forget...the knowing...that we...are one.(written by myself, Mary E. Querey White) Date
of this comment - 3/30/2004...loveratheart47f@aol

Sandra Boynton said...

My sister-in-law is a librarian and a patron asked her if she could find a poem called, "When you were a tadpole and I was a frog." She did a lot of searching and found,"Evolution. She then brought it to our drama group to read and we all loved it. We are a group of 55 to 66 year olds and had never heard it all though we are all well-read(or thought we were.) I just sent it to my two daughters and a good friend. It is a beautiful poem. I tend to believe he probably was born in Scotland, land of the story tellers. A friend in Florida

John Bryant said...

A lovely poem, yes, and amusing to see the upset it caused with an anti-evolutionist (above). In Smith's time evolution was a much hotter topic, so it is interesting that he grafted onto this theory yet another which is also radical from a traditionally-Christian viewpoint, namely, something akin to the Hindu belief in the transmigration of souls. It is possible that Smith meant this metaphorically -- simply as a way of emphasizing the strength of his love, but it is a theory which is believable to those like myself who may be atheists, but who believe in the possibility of the continuation of life after death in some form ('spiritualism'). It is this belief which makes the poem both hopeful and also deeply sad; for while there is hope that love, unlike diamonds, is forever, there is also the fear that once lovers are disunited, it may be a very long time before they can once again unite.

Gentle Wind Accounts Payable said...

Thank you! I haven't seen my copy of this in years. I found it when I was four: typed by my grandfather in the late 1920's, someone had placed it in the family bible. (I later relished the irony of that one!) My grandfather, too, could recite it by heart, as I found when I asked him to read it to me. I was educated by progressive nuns who also believed in the theory of evolution, so it always made good sense to me.

M Leyden said...

I read this poem over sixty years ago in an air-raid shelter when death was all around. It moved andsustained me and even now in my eighties it can still move me to tears and I would like to add my own appendix: "Together throughout eternity we follow nature's wish; forever true since the days when you were a tadpole and I was a fish"
Margaret, in England

maria mchenry said...

I came across this poem in a diary that I picked up at an antique store. I was picking out names that the author of the diary (1920's flapper girl) wrote down, and she wrote this poem down and his name. Pretty cool.

maria mchenry

veronica houghton said...

I am now retired and my first retirement present from me, to me, was a computer. I first came across the poem when I was a young girl and very much in love. The poem got lost, as did my soulmate, and I only remembered the first two verses. I tapped in a few lines on the search engine and wept tears of joy when I read it. I love the poem it brings back so very many happy memories for me. Although I have noticed a few changes to the poem on different sites. e.g. on this site the line, 'When over the nursing side', like many other versions is not the same as I read over 40yrs ago. Which was, 'When over the nursing sod.' Which I think is how it was first written (and it rhymes). Also, 'Where the crook- boned men made war', was, I think, the original.
Best wishes, Vera England.

jlll40 said...

Fascinating to read all this. I am 77 years old and in my family
archives there is what must have been a privately printed pamphlet
(app. 6"x8"). The title is "Evolution" and that is all the information
there is - no author, no publisher, no date. I grew up hearing the poem
and loving it. In my copy, the lines in verse six read "o'er the
musing sod". In verse 9, the line is "and cheek by jowl.... In verse 10
the last line reads "Till our brutal tusks were gone". In verse 12, my
copy says "Caroline" crags. Verse 13, "Tremados beds" and "Where the
crook-boned men". This may be nit-picky but I have every reason to
presume that my version is correct.

What a pleasure this site is. Thank you.

Elizabeth Langhorne

Eleanor said...

This has always been my favourite poem. Many years ago when I was in
University, (University of Toronto - late 1950s) I wanted to do an
independent paper on it for a poetry course. I was told it was 'not
critically acclaimed' and therefore not acceptable to the professor for
my project. I was devastated at the time and felt quite angry towards
the entire educational establishment as a result. To this day, I think
it was an unfair decision. .

At that time, I went so far as to find out that Langdon Smith was born
in Kentucky and that he married a woman quite a bit younger than himself
named Marie Antoinette WRIGHT in New York City in the late 1890s.
Although I no longer have my actual research, I remember that the dates
worked out so that he would have written the poem shortly after his
marriage, making her presumably the inspiration behind the poem.

Once I had that information, I think I really wanted to find out more,
or at least as much, about her as I did about him. What I found
really intriguing was the incongruity of her name - with its frivolous
connotations - that seemed so much at odds with the sentiment of the
poem. Of course, she may have spent her life trying to live down her
name and because of it rather than in spite of it, perhaps she was a
very deep, thoughtful, philosophical person.

Or maybe she was the epitome of everything the name Marie Antoinette
suggests - and maybe it was that superficial quality that Smith
recognized in himself. Even frivolous people can have soul mates.

If anyone has any further thoughts on this, I'd be delighted to hear
from them.


Ktgm4 said...

I like your ending of this was one of my late husband;s favorite poems and as
we were and are very much soul mates I'm sure we go back to the tadpole and
the fish.

Melanie Cravens said...

I discovered this poem in my Literature book in Jr. High School in the late 1970's. I loved it then and I love it now. I hadn't thought of it in years but for some reason the other day, I asked my teenaged sons if they'd heard of it and quoted the first lines. They had no idea what I was talking about. Thank you for putting it up here. Now I can show them that their mother does know something! And I can share it with my soulmate, their father.

I've always thought that what this poem says is beautiful. A love so strong and deep that it's not just for this lifetime, but goes back to the beginnings of time, and will last through all the rest of time.


bolandcrafts said...

I recited this poem to the love of my life, one magical sunny day, many
years ago, on the shores of a small water park. Alas, the most WONDERFUL
GIRL IN THE WORLD is no longer with me but memories of her are undiminished.
The words of this poem fill me at once with sadness and warmth, recreating
that perfect moment in time, when the sun shone and love blossomed.

Ed Mulrenin said...

In 1965, when I was in college, my aunt's boss dictated this poem to her
from memory, as he had misplaced his only copy of it years before. My aunt
gave the poem to my mother and she, in turn, showed it to me. I immediately
committed it to memory. Since then, even to this day, I am always at the
ready with this poem when the right person shows up. I really cannot count
the number of woman I've recited it to, but the number would be high (there
was one guy too --- Joe Hansen --- a college buddy who was so impressed that
I knew such a long, beautiful poem that every time we got together he would
plead with me to recite it and I, awkwardly nonetheless, would comply).
Until the Internet came along, I could never find this poem written anywhere
and, in fact, didn't know who wrote it since it was ascribed to "anonymous."
Now I know who wrote it; and now I know there are many others who were
seized as much by this poem as I was, still am. And I still remember when I
recited it at a poem I went to in the '60's, in the mellow light at
Delmonico's (although I forget whom I recited it to, but that doesn't
matter). And on places like Ayers rock in Australia with a girl I had just
met --- the poem still hangs on her wall to this day. Although my memorized
repertoire includes the poetry of Shakespeare, Neruda, Pushkin and others,
this is the poem that always bekons to come out first and without fail it

Thank you for setting up this page to share these thoughts with other

Ed Mulrenin

Howard Lehman said...

Hey, where are all my fellow New Yorkers from the 50's / 60's who spent
many a sleepless night listening to the great Jean Shepard read
Evolution? It made high school tolerable the next day, provided you
found some other nerd wearing a 'FLICK LIVES' button. Good stuff.

Cynthia_Black said...

I just discovered this poem quoted incompletely in the back of a slim
volume on the paleontology and stratigraphy of the Middle Devonian
"Louisville" Limestones of the Falls of Ohio (Indiana/Kentucky). I
roared with laughter and delight. Immediately I looked it up on the
internet and found all of your equally delightful comments. Being a
geologist and one who's studied both in the UK and in the US, I thought
it interesting that all of his geological references are British rather
than American. Much of the nomenclature is even fairly local (Purbeck
Flags, Kimmeridge Clay, Tremadoc beds, etc). It seems possible that Mr.
Smith may have had a smattering of geology, and, being a man gifted with
words, appreciated the poetry in much of its jargon. In a slim,
roundabout way, it may support his being from or having visited Britain.
I shall post this poem in its entirety and commit to memory! Wonderful!
C. Black

VParigi said...

Have you found a copy of "On the Pan-Handle" yet? If so, please let me
know if another copy is available. What a treasure that poem is!! Brought
tears to my eyes...and really touched me...
Thanks for any further info on Langdon Smith..
Dorothy Parks

David Stocum said...

From: David L. Stocum

I first read this poem in a laboratory manual of comparative anatomy 45
years ago. I always associated it with a very special person, but could
remember only the first and last stanzas. I'm glad to have it in full

JPPARR340 said...

Sometime in the early 1940's I came across this poem and loved it.

I don't even remember where I came by this copy of the poem on three sheets
of yellowed paper, type written, so it's not too old, with many misspellings
corrected but no indication of who the poet was.

It was put away and not seen for many years then put away again and just
recently found again as we are gathering our household together to move.

I finally went on line, a few minutes ago, and after a few tries I came up
with your site and want to thank you all for the interesting comments on this
lovely poem and the information on the poet.

Jim from Florida soon to be South Carolina originally from New Jersey

Jon said...

I have this poem in the book called "A treasury of the familiar" published
in 1959. It's a beautiful poem that underscores the trancendent love.

M. David Brim said...

I discovered this poem in the 1960's when I was a teen-ager and committed it to memory. I had forgotten one verse over the years, and am glad to have it avaialble again to refresh my memory and give it to my friends and family. Truly one of the best love poems ever written. M. David Brim

Gouédic said...


I found your name on the internet with your comment about Langdom
Smith's poem "Evolution". I am currently trying to translate this
beautiful love poem into breton language which is, as you may be
know, a celtic language (akin to Welsh) spoken in Brittanny ( a west
region of France). Actually, breton language is in decline but more
than 200 000 people still speak it or at least can understand it. I
allow myself to get in touch with you for a specific question about
Marie-Antoinette WRIGHT who was Langdom Smith's young wife : Where
was she born ? Why does langdom Smith make a comparison between her
eyes and Devon ? ("Your eyes are deep as the Devon springs" ) Was she
from Devon ? The only Devon I know is situated not far from here (I
live in BREST, Brittanny) on the other side of the Channel, in
Britain. Is there another Devon ? Why is there so many references to
the south of England (Kimmeridge, Purbeck, Bagshot) ?

Excuse my English (I've got a lot of work left to improve it !)

Greetings from France


tim stevens said...

I've been looking for this poem for about 13 years, since I saw the first few lines framed on the wall of an acquaintance. I mistakenly thought it was by Langston Hughes for some reason, and thought it began, "When I was a tadpole and you were a fish." Thanks so much for this site. Beautiful poem - and lovely to be able to read the entire thing!

skasperzick said...

i first read this poeem about a year ago and loved it in a way i have never loved another.i cannot think of anything more beautiful than science to describe love and its indurance over the ages of made me change the way i look at everything in life

ER Valora said...

I discovered "Evolution" in the late 40's and carried it with me for many
years after. I could always recite it by heart, so I was jarred by some of
the same little discrepancies in your copy of the poem as Ms. Langhorne was,
along with a few more "nits". In verse 7, an "Aurochs" bull and she was
gowned in ":florious" hair. Verse 8, the woodland "dank", and "Through *
brawn and " (* no "and" here) Verse 9, "with a rude" (add the "a"). Verse
13, "the crook-boned men made" ("make" becomes "made").
"Corralline" is an adjective that sounds vaguely reasonable, but I always
thought of "Caroline beds" as being an ancient layer of deposits somewhere.
Twenty years later, when I finally got to college, my Anthropoly professor
glanced at my copy of the poem with disdain. I guess he only saw the
scientific inaccuracies.

kurt dreas said...

Jean Shepard, a true yarn spinner. I read all his stories in Playboy mag, in the years 1969-70. I even read the stories out loud to my girlfriends. I was in college -- out of town -- at that time. We laughed and enjoyed the stories as much as anyone could. I still remember his mothers "rump sprung red Chinese chinnel bathrobe" -- I don't remember how to spell that. Nevertheless, the cedar lake stories w/ Harry Gertz, were priceless. He also wrote for the village voice newspaper too. In one story, he was in Horn & Hardarts ( the automat ), being hungry & poor at the time; he was watching a gentleman there, eating a donut & drinking coffee. He finished the coffee, and one of the two donuts, then left. Jean saw this and went over to the table and picked up the donut, took a bite, looked up & saw the gentleman coming back with ANOTHER cup of coffee.

He also had a show on PBS, back in the 80's (?), & he referred to someone pejoratively as a " Twinkie wrapper of life"

Jean Shepard also wrote 3 (?) books with the stories in them. One was called: " In God we trust, all others pay cash ". I was in Barnes & Noble several months ago, and noticed an audio tape of Jean Shepard's writings. Sadly, I read the bio, & noticed that Jean died in 1999. I still am sorry about it.

Anyway, that my story, and I'm sticking to it. I'm glad you recognize fine writing when you read it, so do I.

"Evolution" read by Jean Shepard, must have been an experience of a lifetime. I envy you.

The movie " A Christmas Story" is a compilation of several of his stories. Thanks for the memories.

sincerely, Kurt Dreas @

Rochester, NY. July, 22, 2007.

Robert Maximoff said...

I was delighted to find "Evolution" on your site. I was searching for
special poems remembered from my youth. I'm now eighty-three, but
sixty years ago when I was a newly-graduated engineer and was working
on a challenging assignment to design a natural gasoline extraction
plant, I composed a parody on "Evolution" to describe the detailed
processes involved. -- Not much potential audience, so I never tried
to publish it. Even so, if anyone (??) is interested, I found this in
an old file:
"When you were a mole of pure propane, and I was a gallon of oil,
We'd mingle at play in an intimate way on a theoretical bubble tray,
'Til a process stream carried you away, and I returned to my toil.

"We met again in a stripper still, with love we were incensed,
And things were swell until you fell into that damned reboiler well
Where your K-value went to hell -- you went of uncondensed.

"And then you were de-ethanized where you cut quite a caper,
You'd fractionate then precipitate, and as reflux regurgitate
Upon a rectifying plate, and flash off in a vapor.

"The last I heard you were going around in a a stabilizer tower.
You were making a fuss over a pentane plus, whose name as I
recall was Gus,
And never gave a thought to us and my absorption power.

"When you reach storage, think of me and how our love would boil,
Do not disdain those days so plain, those times we never can regain
When you were a mole of pure propane, and I was a gallon of oil."

If you or anyone knows a chem engineer, they might enjoy it.

Robert Maximoff

Anonymous said...

A portion of the poem is quoted in an episode of "Lockie Leonard", a TV show for tweens (I'm guessing) produced in Australia and cablecast during the summer of 2010 the United States on the Disney Channel.

mim said...

I've been looking for this poem ever since I first heard Jean Shepherd read it on the radio. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

It's great to see other Jean Shepherd fans find this page on the internet over the years.
Having just listened to an mp3 of his July 4th broadcast in 1960 over WOR New York, I felt compelled to search for the poem on the internet.

Excelsior, you fatheads!

Barry Cartwright

Anonymous said...

Wow, for the first time i've seen a person with the wisdom of science and literature. It's what makes this poem unique to me.

Anonymous said...

I first read this poem in the 5th grade, in 1956, and I have never forgotten it. It's meaning is more relevant as time passes.

BTW. Back then I recall it was as titled: "Eons".
Now, if we could just dare to believe it...

Thanks for posting this.


Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

Sarah said...

I read part of this poem in the paleontology book, The Earth Through Time. I searched for it in its entirety on the internet, and came across your blog. How fantastic and lovely! Thank you very much for posting it.

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Anonymous said...

My grandparents were both Biology professors--she at Smith and he at Reed, and then both were hired at Whitman College in 1930. He used to recite this from memory at the dinner table, and as a child I thought he had written it, until a few years ago I found it in a 1921 booklet of Biology Poems he had (one of which he had written).

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This poem resonates deeply. Thank you for leaving the posts made by those who have enjoyed it for decades.

Anonymous said...

I recently found a typed copy of teh poem in an old art book. It is dated 1905 Delmonico's Restaurant, New York. I have contacted the HQ of Delmonico's and sent them a copy as it might be of interest to them

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Horseman said...

Regarding Langdon Smith's EVOLUTION,
I came to it through a small privately printed hard bound edition of 100 copies by the Lakeside Press in 1932. This was the effort of George Ade (a lifetime friend of my grandfather, John T. McCutcheon). The volume is prefaced by a lengthy introduction by Ade describing his search for Smith and his relatives for the right to publish. The 100 volumes were not sold but given to sympathetic writers, newspapermen, friends, and lovers of what Ade referred to as "good stuff".

Anonymous said...

Hi Eleanor,
Like you, I'm intrigued by Langdon and Marie. I'd love to read your notes on this project. Did you happen to find these? Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dorothy,
Did you ever find a copy of "on the pan handle"? I'm very interested in reading this.


Anonymous said...

I'd love to read this preface. Is it possible to get a copy (or scan) of it?

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Martin Gardener mentioned a picture of Langdon in the New York American obituary. My search has been unsuccessful. Has anyone found this?

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