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The Temple of Nature by Erasmus Darwin

The Temple of Nature

by Erasmus Darwin

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(Preface) The Poem, which is here offered to the Public, does not pretend to instruct by deep researches of reasoning; its aim is simply to amuse by bringing distinctly to the imagination the beautiful and sublime images of the operations of Nature in the order, as the Author believes, in which the progressive course of time presented them.
By firm immutable immortal laws

Impress'd on Nature by the Great First Cause,

Say, Muse! how rose from elemental strife

Organic forms, and kindled into life;

How Love and Sympathy with potent charm

Warm the cold heart, the lifted hand disarm;

Allure with pleasures, and alarm with pains,

And bind Society in golden chains.
Organic Life beneath the shoreless waves

Was born and nurs'd in Ocean's pearly caves;

First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,

Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;

These, as successive generations bloom,

New powers acquire, and larger limbs assume;

Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,

And breathing realms of fin, and feet, and wing.
Another prejudice which has prevailed against the spontaneous production of vitality, seems to have arisen from the misrepresentation of this doctrine, as if the larger animals had been thus produced; as Ovid supposes after the deluge of Deucalion, that lions were seen rising out of the mud of the Nile, and struggling to disentangle their hinder parts. It was not considered, that animals and vegetables have been perpetually improving by reproduction; and that spontaneous vitality was only to be looked for in the simplest organic beings, as in the smallest microscopic animalcules; which perpetually, perhaps hourly, enlarge themselves by reproduction, like the roots of tulips from seed, or the buds of seedling trees, which die annually, leaving others by solitary reproduction rather more perfect than themselves for many successive years, till at length they acquire sexual organs or flowers.
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