Note from Joe: Will “global warming” make humanity go extinct? Phyllis McGinley didn’t think so, even though she wrote this poem over 50 years ago! This poem, if it were written today, could be entitled “Hope for Humanity”.
Amid the dark that rims us now,
Beset by news we cannot cherish,
Let us consider the cahow
That petrel which refused to perish,
In spite of gossip it had gone
With dodo and with mastodon.
Three hundred years ago or more,
It built its nest, it spent its slumbers,
At ease upon Bermuda’s shore
In inocent, prolific numbers,
A creature of the coral reef,
Credulous, gentle, and naïf.
But then the hungry settlers came
To find those pastures stern for plowing.
The bird was edible and tame,
So everybody went cahowing,
Till by and by, beside the water,
There were no more cahows to slaughter.
“Alas!” cried all the scientists,
“Alas, career so brief and checkered!”
They crossed “Cahow” from off the lists
And wrote “Extinct” upon the record.
And man could boast another feat
Of rendering Nature obsolete.
But all the while, with stealth and skill
(Necessity becomes its motto),
The shrewd cahow was nesting still
On lonely rock, in cave and grotto;
Invincibly, and by some plan,
Three hundred years outwitting man.
O brave cahow, so stubborn-linked
To your own island, palmed and surfy!
I’m happy you are not extinct,
But got espied by Dr. Murphy.
You lend me hope, you give me joy,
Whom Total Man could not destroy.
You give me joy, you lend me hope
(At any rate, what hope is bred on),
For surely if a bird can cope
So cunningly with Armageddon,
And, snug in unimagined dens,
Wait out its season for returning,
Why, so can Homo sapiens
Tomorrow when the planet’s burning —
Can flee, root, cower, scrabble, strive,
And rear its progeny. And survive.
Amid our ills that seem incurable,
Cahow, you still make me feel more durable.