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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index D > Erasmus Darwin Quotes > Poem

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Erasmus Darwin
(12 Dec 1731 - 18 Apr 1802)

English physician, poet, philosopher, botanist and naturalist.


Erasmus Darwin Quotes on Poem (6 quotes)

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By firm immutable immortal laws Impress’d on Nature by the GREAT FIRST CAUSE,
Say, MUSE! how rose from elemental strife
Organic forms, and kindled into life;
How Love and Sympathy with potent charm
Warm the cold heart, the lifted hand disarm;
Allure with pleasures, and alarm with pains,
And bind Society in golden chains.
— Erasmus Darwin
From 'Production of Life', The Temple of Nature; or, The Origin of Society: A Poem, with Philosophical Notes (1803), 3, Canto I, lines 1-8.
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Each pregnant Oak ten thousand acorns forms
Profusely scatter’d by autumnal storms;
Ten thousand seeds each pregnant poppy sheds
Profusely scatter’d from its waving heads;
The countless Aphides, prolific tribe,
With greedy trunks the honey’d sap imbibe;
Swarm on each leaf with eggs or embryons big,
And pendent nations tenant every twig ...
—All these, increasing by successive birth,
Would each o’erpeople ocean, air, and earth.
So human progenies, if unrestrain’d,
By climate friended, and by food sustain’d,
O’er seas and soils, prolific hordes! would spread
Erelong, and deluge their terraqueous bed;
But war, and pestilence, disease, and dearth,
Sweep the superfluous myriads from the earth...
The births and deaths contend with equal strife,
And every pore of Nature teems with Life;
Which buds or breathes from Indus to the Poles,
And Earth’s vast surface kindles, as it rolls!
— Erasmus Darwin
The Temple of Nature (1803), canto 4, lines 347-54, 367-74, 379-82, pages 156-60.
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ORGANIC LIFE beneath the shoreless waves
Was born and nurs'd in Ocean's pearly caves;
First, forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom,
New powers acquire, and larger limbs assume;
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And breathing realms of fin, and feet, and wing.
Thus the tall Oak, the giant of the wood,
Which bears Britannia's thunders on the flood;
The Whale, unmeasured monster of the main,
The lordly Lion, monarch of the plain,
The Eagle soaring in the realms of air,
Whose eye undazzled drinks the solar glare,
Imperious man, who rules the bestial crowd,
Of language, reason, and reflection proud,
With brow erect, who scorns this earthy sod,
And styles himself the image of his God;
Arose from rudiments of form and sense,
An embryon point, or microscopic ens!
— Erasmus Darwin
The Temple of Nature (1803), canto 1, lines 295-314, pages 26-8.
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So erst the Sage [Pythagoras] with scientific truth
In Grecian temples taught the attentive youth;
With ceaseless change how restless atoms pass
From life to life, a transmigrating mass;
How the same organs, which to-day compose
The poisonous henbane, or the fragrant rose,
May with to-morrow's sun new forms compile,
Frown in the Hero, in the Beauty smile.
Whence drew the enlighten'd Sage the moral plan,
That man should ever be the friend of man;
Should eye with tenderness all living forms,
His brother-emmets, and his sister-worms.
— Erasmus Darwin
The Temple of Nature (1803), canto 4, lines 417-28, page 163.
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Soon shall thy arm, UNCONQUER’D STEAM! afar
Drag the slow barge, or drive the rapid car;
Or on wide-waving wings expanded bear
The flying-chariot through the fields of air.
— Erasmus Darwin
From 'Botanic Garden' (1781), part 1, canto 1, lines 289-92. The Botanic Garden, with Philosophical Notes (4th Ed., 1799). At the time Erasmus Darwin penned his poem, he would have been aware of a limited history of steam power: Edward Someset, 2nd Marquis of Worcester steam pump (1663), Thomas Savery's steam pump (1698), Thomas Newcomen atmospheric engine (1712), Matthew Boulton and James Watt first commercial steam engine (1776). Watt did not build his first 'double acting' engine, which enabled using a flywheel, until 1783 (two years after Darwin's poem). It was also after Darwin's poem was written that the first steamboat, using paddles, the Pyroscaphe steamed up a French river on 15 Jul 1783. Darwin's predicted future for the steam engine car did not come to pass until Richard Trevithick tested his Camborne road engine (1801). The Wrights' first airplane flight came a century later, in 1903.
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The Reproductions of the living Ens
From sires to sons, unknown to sex, commence...
Unknown to sex the pregnant oyster swells,
And coral-insects build their radiate shells...
Birth after birth the line unchanging runs,
And fathers live transmitted in their sons;
Each passing year beholds the unvarying kinds,
The same their manners, and the same their minds.
— Erasmus Darwin
The Temple of Nature (1803), canto 2, lines 63-4, 89-90, 107-10, pages 48-52.
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See also:
  • 12 Dec - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Darwin's birth.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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