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The Auk and the Orchid -- Robert Williams Wood

Guest poem submitted by Ajit Narayanan :
(Poem #1292) The Auk and the Orchid
 We seldom meet, when out to walk,
 Either the orchid or the auk;
 The auk indeed is only known
 To dwellers in the Auktic zone,
 While orchids can be found in legions,
 Within the equatorial regions.
 The graceful orchid on its stalk,
 Resembles so the awkward auk;
 'Tis plain we must some means discover,
 To tell the two from one another:
 The obvious difference, to be sure,
 Is merely one of temperature.
 For eskimos, perhaps the Auk
 Performs the duties of the stork.
-- Robert Williams Wood
There are very few poets whose genius is apparent as soon as one reads
their work. For me, Lewis Carroll is one of them; Wood is another. This
poem is from the book 'How to Tell the Birds from the Flowers'. When it
was published (in 1907, I think), it was primarily a children's book,
but has been described as a book of comic verse pretending to be a
nature book. Wood was a fine illustrator as well as a writer; with each
poem in the book he also drew two pictures, one of the bird and another
of the flower, with such skill that they actually _do_ look almost
indistinguishable! In truth, his poems (this one included) lose much of
their comic appeal without the pictures that go with them, and the whole
book, with the pictures and the verse, can be viewed on several sites on
the net, such as
        [broken link]
Wood himself was not a full-time writer. He was primarily a scientist, a
brilliant physicist who contributed a great deal especially to Optics.
(This is another striking similarity between Wood and Carroll, who was a

"Wood was internationally known for his work in optics and spectroscopy,
in which fields he undertook fundamental research in resonance radiation
and in the use of absorption screens in astronomical photography. He
also devised a vastly improved diffraction grating.  In 1897, Wood
became the first to observe field emission,  i.e., charged particles
emitted from a conductor  in an electric field.  This phenomenon is now
used in the field emission microscope  for studying atomic structure.
Wood's work on sodium vapor was especially noteworthy (Dunoyer). Wood
also developed a color-photography process, as well as both infrared and
ultraviolet photography."


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