The poetry of dinosaurs

Dinosaurs have been subjects of doggerel virtually since the time oftheir earliest discovery. Most have contrasted their enormity with their putative lack of brain power (and, no doubt, social graces), with few recent efforts to balance such dismal views.

The most famous dinosaurian poem celebrates the mental achievements of Stegosaurus, in particular the cerebral gymnastics supplied by its double brains. The piece, by Bert L. Taylor, a columnist in the 1930s and 1940s for the Chicago Tribune, goes like this:

Behold the mighty dinosaur, Famous in prehistoric lore, Not only for his power and strength But for his intellectual length. You will observe by these remains The creature had two sets of brains -One in his head (the usual place), The other at his spinal base. Thus he could reason a priori As well as a posteriori No problem bothered him a bit He made both head and tail of it. So wise was he, so wise and solemn, Each thought filled just a spinal column. If one brain found the pressure strong It passed a few ideas along. If something slipped his forward mind Twas rescued by the one behind. And if in error he was caught He had a saving afterthought. As he thought twice before he spoke He had no judgement to revoke. Thus he could think without congestion Upon both sides of every question. Oh, gaze upon this model beast, Defunct ten million years at least.

As a poetic counterpoint to the range of Mesozoic intelligentsia, we also provide some thoughts, entitled The Danger of Being too Clever, by John Maynard Smith, English evolutionary biologist extraordinaire.

The Dinosaurs, or so we're told Were far too imbecile to hold Their own against mammalian brains; Today not one of them remains. There is another school of thought, Which says they suffered from a sort Of constipation from the loss Of adequate supplies of moss.

But Science now can put before us The reason true why Brontosaurus Became extinct. In the Cretaceous A beast incredibly sagacious Lived & loved & ate his fill; Long were his legs, & sharp his bill, Cunning its hands, to steal the eggs Of beasts as clumsy in the legs As Proto- & Triceratops And run, like gangster from the cops,

To some safe vantage-point from which It could enjoy its plunder rich. Cleverer far than any fox Or STANLEY in the witness box It was a VERY GREAT SUCCESS. No egg was safe from it unless Retained within its mother's womb And so the reptiles met their doom.

The Dinosaurs were most put out And bitterly complained about The way their eggs, of giant size, Were eaten up before their eyes, Before they had a chance to hatch, By a beast they couldn't catch.

This awful carnage could not last; The age of Archosaurs was past. They went as broody as a hen When all their eggs were pinched by men. Older they grew, and sadder yet, But still no offspring could they get. Until at last the fearful time, as Yet unguessed by Struthiomimus Arrived, when no more eggs were laid, And then at last he was afraid. He could not learn to climb with ease To reach the birds' nests in the trees, And though he followed round and round Some funny furry things he found, They never laid an egg - not once. It made him feel an awful dunce. So, thin beyond all recognition, He died at last of inanition. MORAL

This story has a simple moral With which the wise will hardly quarrel; Remember that it scarcely ever Pays to be too bloody clever.

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