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Pigeon Poems 

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Below is a modern  poem on Darwin and his pigeons 

by kind permission of Anne Bryan


He watched men take a pigeon in the hand

examine feathers, beak, each feature traced

in their mind's eye, each new potential scanned,

the offspring judged, selected, each one placed

appropriately in pies or breeding schemes.

Men homing in to make their dreams come true

bewildering varieties of dreams -

white fantails, tumblers, pigeons racing through

the dynasties of Egypt, Persia. Doves

to speed the news from bloody fields of war

to flutter strut and coo in courts of love

When Darwin's doves had fledged, like hopeful Noah

he launched them on the stormy sky to rove

and roost in places that he never saw


By kind permission of Ruth Padel, a descendant of Charles Darwin, from Darwin - A Life in Poems {Chatto and Windus}


“I’ve sent ten thousand barnacles out

of the house and am sorting species notes.”

With Etty, he’s bred and dissected

a thousand pigeons, to demonstrate

they’re all descended from the same rock dove.


“Pouters,” “Tipplers,” lovely “Fan-Toes”:

white down on pink claws, pleats

of a ballerina curtseying the floor.


“Mortal illness in man due, no doubt,

to hereditary tendencies to disease,

which clear away the weak.” More -


was it because of him  that Annie died?

“My dread is hereditary ill-health.

Are marriages between first cousins

doomed to deformity and illness? Effects

of inbreeding – only the fittest survive?”

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