Didus ineptus

Clark Ashton Smith

Absurd, magnificent, and huger
than swan or turkey-cock, this flightless antique pigeon
once roamed at his anachronistic leisure
among the broad-leaved travelers' trees and aloes
upon that manless isle,
dawnward from Madagascar,
which may have been old Pliny's isle of Cerne.
Laying in peace the large, the one white egg
on the mat of woodland grass
through ages of that slothfull praradise,
the dodo flourlshed in his archaic fashion,
learning no need of wings and having but few feathers,
exempt from competition
save of his only fellow-islanders,
the wingless rail, the short-winged heron,
some curious doves and parroquets
and the fruit-gorging bat:
of which the well-winged have survived alone.
Then came the eastward-driving Portuguese,
the Dutch, the French, the English,
to try in turn the dodo's meat, to find no mode
nor amount of cooking made it palatable,
and yet to leave of him no remnant
other than drawings, paintings, and a legend
or something great and harmless and grotesque . . .
And no one knows
what colonist it was who killed the last
of the prodigious brood, nor in
what century he earned his dim distinction . . .
So passers wonder
unnoted and unrumored from the earth.

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