Trained in Anglican theology to be a country clergyman,
I never endeavored to disturb beliefs held dear,
even as my own faith wobbled among fossils.
I served on Beagle’s voyage to grasp an opportunity—
exploration any man craves in youth. Would I have traveled
had I known the scorn to be poured on me? For the scientific
truths revealed about life’s diversity, disparaged reputation
and discomfort were worthy sacrifice.
When I returned to England, I had enough to engage me
until the end of my days, with notes and specimens
and ten lively children. I never yearned to venture
from Down House again. Dazzling is natural selection,
the gradual evolution of species, the antiquity of earth,
evidence of the mutability of species, including man,
not created all at once. It is true. I was slow to publish
all I had discovered. I did not want to add to prejudices
against my views. As well, I considered my dear Emma,
who believes our Annie is with the Good Lord in Heaven.
More than fossils and ever-changing life forms, her death
was a greater force in sundering my belief in a beneficent God
who might care for our personal woes. Emma and our Henrietta
are at my bedside now and will vouchsafe that I am not
a Christian at the end of my Earthly tenure,
however many would hope it were so.
Open yourselves to wondrous variation and adaptation!
Observe what men have wrought in a few decades
with pigeons, orchids, dogs, simply by selecting and breeding
for favored traits. Imagine what millions of years can do.
How slow is evolution. With so much work, so much proof,
poor fools still cannot face the evident truth,
would rather make of their offspring dumb sheep.