Text of the Poem
Long long ago when the world was a wild place Planted with bushes and people by apes, our Mission Brigade was at work in the jungle. Hard by the Congo Once, when a foraging detail was active Scouting for green-fly, it came on a grey man, the Last living man, in the branch of a baobab Stalking a monkey. Earlier men had disposed of, for pleasure, Creatures whose names we scarcely remember— Zebra, rhinoceros, elephants, wart-hog, Lion, rats, deer. But After the wars had extinguished the cities Only the wild ones were left, half-naked Near the Equator: and here was the last one, Starved for a monkey. By then the Mission Brigade had encountered Hundreds of such men: and their procedure, History tells us, was only to feed them: Find them and feed them; Those were the orders. And this was the last one. Nobody knew that he was, but he was. Mud Caked on his flat grey flanks. He was crouched, half- armed with a shaved spear Glinting beneath broad leaves. When their jaws cut Swathes through the bark and he saw fine teeth shine, Round eyes roll round and forked arms waver Huge as the rough trunks. Over his head, he was frightened. Our workers Marched through the Congo before he was born, but This was the first time perhaps that he'd seen one. Staring in hot still Silence, he crouched there: then jumped. With a long swing Down from his branch, he had angled his spear too Quickly, before they could hold him, and hurled it Hard at the soldier Leading the detail. How could he know Queen's Orders were only to help him? The soldier Winced when the tipped spear pricked him. Unsheathing his Sting was a reflex. Later the Queen was informed. There were no more Men. An impetuous soldier had killed off, Purely by chance, the penultimate primate. When she was certain. Squadrons of workers were fanned through the Congo Detailed to bring back the man's picked bones to be Sealed in the archives in amber. I'm quite sure Nobody found them After the most industrious search, though. Where had the bones gone? Over the earth, dear, Ground by the teeth of the termites, blown by the Wind, like the dodo's.