Posted: 5 February 09
By Ruth Padel
“You care for nothing but shooting, dogs
and rat-catching! You will be a disgrace
to yourself and all your family.”
His father is the largest man he’ll ever know
and the sternest face.
He’ll have to be a parson, plod
through the classics again, go
to Cambridge and read Divinity.
Holy Orders? As well that as anything. He accepts
the truth of Holy Writ. And the Creed, of course.
(It never struck me how illogical it was
to say I believed
what I could not understand –
and what is, in fact, unintelligible.)
What matters most is shooting. The worst treason
would be an untrue entry
in his sporting catalogue.
At Bliss Castle, alias Maer Hall –
home from home – Uncle Jos
invites him, always, for the sublime
partridge and pheasant season.
On sporting days he keeps his boots,
two stand-up puddles, open
Maer Hall, Staffordshire 1828
Each year the Bristol Festival of Ideas commissions new work by leading writers. For 2009, and as part of our work on Darwin 200, we asked Ruth Padel to write a poem sequence about Charles Darwin. Ruth is the ideal writer for us: she is a brilliant poet, has a love for the natural world, and has a family connection to the great man. Her poems tell the story of Darwin’s remarkable life, the voyage that transformed his thinking and what followed. We present a poem from this sequence each weekday in February for 20 days.
About the author
Ruth Padel is a British classical scholar, prize-winning poet and journalist. She came to prominence with a poetry column in the London Independent on Sunday, and is currently Resident Poet at Somerset House in London. To celebrate the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book, On the Origin of Species, Ruth has created a sequence of poems about Darwin’s remarkable life and work. Her new book of 20 poems, A Voyage Round Charles Darwin, was commissioned exclusively for Bristol Festival of Ideas. We asked Ruth to write these poems because she is a brilliant poet with a love of the natural world, and has a strong family connection to Darwin himself, being his great-great-granddaughter on her maternal grandmother’s side. She is also a conservationist and member of the Zoological Society of London. A Voyage Round Charles Darwin will be published in December 2008 by Chatto & Windus. Poems from the book will be published on this website throughout February 2009, the month of Charles Darwin’s birthday.
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