John Kenyon

(1784-1856 / Jamaica)

To Mary Anning


Thee, Mary! first 'twas lightning struck,
And then a water-vat half drowned;
But I can't think 'twas mere blind luck
Twice left for dead—twice brought thee round.
No! Fortune in her prescient mood,
I must believe, e'en then was planning
To fabricate a something good
Of Thee, the twice-saved Mary Anning.

This to fulfil she did not bid
Thy feet o'er foreign soils to roam,
For well she knew what powers lay hid
In these blue cliffs that touched thy home.
And hither led, in vain to Thee
Or marle, or rock, was insight banning;
Some folk can through a millstone see;
And so, in sooth, can Mary Anning.
Mere child as yet, this sea-beat strand
'Twas thine to wander all alone,
Upgathering in thy little hand
Chance-pebble bright, or fossil bone.
Though keenest winds were whistling round,
Though hottest suns thy cheek were tanning,
Nor suns, nor winds could check or bound
The duteous toils of Mary Anning.
At first these relic-shrouding rocks
Were but thy simple stock in trade,
Wherewith, through pain, and worldly shocks,
A widowed mother's lot to aid.

But now, with taught and teaching eye,
Thy practised sense their sense is scanning;
And learning and philosophy
Both own their debt to Mary Anning.
E'en poets shall by Thee set store;
For wonders feed the poet's wish;
And is their mermaid wondrous more
Than thy half-lizard and half-fish?
And therefore 'tis that, all the time
Yon shark's head Thou art measuring, spanning,
I inly weave this uncouth rhyme
In honest praise of Mary Anning.
True, Mary! we—earth-born—must go,
Like these lost tribes, to earth again,
While Lyme's dark-headed urchins grow,
Each in his turn, to grey-haired men.
Yet when, grown old, this beach they walk,
Some pensive breeze their gray locks fanning,
Their sons shall love to hear them talk
Of many a feat of Mary Anning.

Submitted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010

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