With FitzRoy’s twenty-two chronometers
Ticking on their shelves, Darwin, sick again,
Killed time re-reading Lyell’sGeology
OrParadise Lost–his favourite poem.
On deck the crew were plump and happy now.
Roast armadillo and ostrich dumplings
Had brought them round Cape Horn,
and the Beagle,Under full sail,
was tacking for the Line.
But charting that long, sheep’s jaw-bone of a coast
Could not assuage the zealot in FitzRoy.
To substantiate the Flood, evidence
For Genesis: that was what he wanted.
When they landed, Antediluvium
Was at every turn, but nowhere Eden;
Not in such heat; not with such contortions
Of cinder and lava; and not with such
Black Imps of Hell as the iguanas
Crawling and slithering about these
Blighted Encantadas –these Enchanted Islands,
Where the chief sound of life was a hiss –
From the snakes, and from the giant tortoises,
The indomitable Galapagos themselves,
As they lurched and lumbered their way inland
Following their ancient paths to water.
Yet in all this new weird, it was the beaks
Of brown finches that dismasted FitzRoy,
And sent him on his solitary way
To slash a red equator round his throat.
Neil Curry (1987) The hero in “Galapagos” is Admiral Robert FitzRoy, captain of HMS Beagle, the vessel that carried Charles Darwin in 1831 to South America and the Galapagos Islands where he made the discoveries that led him to develop his theory of evolution.