Ornithoidichnites, by William Henry Smith


On the red Connecticut sandstone
Of the Mesozoic age
Are imprinted myriad footmarks
Very puzzling to the sage;
As the animal that made them
Science faileth to disclose,
Whether monstrous bird or reptile
Still no human being knows.   Dinosaurs, prodigious reptiles,
Partly mammal-like in form,
With their massive limbs posterior,
Triple-toed, as was the norm,
Biped in their locomotion,
Or ornithic type and mold,
May have left upon the sandstone
Footprints in the days of old.   Then again a giant moa,
Or some other mammoth bird,
Like a huge, colossal ostrich,
By the want of food bestirred,
Wading o'er the plastic sandstone,
May, in seeking for its prey,
Thus have left behind the footprints
That are still extant today.   Possibly some other monster,
Still to science quite unknown,
In that early age existing,
Left its vestiges in stone;
Or creation might have fashioned
Footprints on the yielding sand
In a way no human being
Even yet can understand.   Thus the nature of these footmarks
Shrewd philosophers may guess;
Or again the highest wisdom
May its ignorance confess;
Or the proof of their existence,
Being made so long ago,
Some agnostics in their doubting
Might declare we do not know.   E'en so human reputations
Of the famous and the great,
Living onward through the ages
In exalted high estate,
Deathless in their proud attainments,
Standing like a monolith,
When assailed by modern critics
Are pronounced a doubtful myth.   Bacon, proud, commanding genius,
Justly famed in many ways,
Gains new honors as the author
Of immortal Shakespeare's plays;
William Tell had no existence;
And our famous Captain Smith,
And the noble Pocahontas,
Now are found to be a myth.   Also Romulus and Remus
With the wolf must disappear;
And Napoleon in his glory
Never had existence here;
And lo! Nineveh, proud city,
While its relics men exhume,
Never, as we learn, existed,
Nor was buried in the tomb.   Berkeley even goes still further,
And conceited doth insist
That this truth he hath discovered:
We ourselves do not exist,
All is but a vain delusion,
As philosophy serene
Shows this world cognizes nothing--
Only images are seen.   Thus the world in growing wiser
Hath the truth with myth allied,
And the facts that erst existed
Now by sages are denied,
While the vaunted type of culture
Found in high scholasticism
In this age of great advancement
Only leads to Pyrrhonism.   In such times when wondrous critics
All the knowledge of the ages flout,
And some think the highest wisdom
Only teaches men to doubt,
It is well if we remember,
In assuaging human grief,
Heretofore the noble workers
Have been men of firm belief.   Those have all believed in something
Who have been a power here,
And to stand for their convictions
Never failed through doubt or fear;
For convinced beyond a question
That the cause espoused was right,
Firm in faith, they knew no halting
Howsoever went the fight.   'Tis belief that prompts the action,
Spurring men from day to day,
When they make the reputations
That abide and live for aye,
While the tiny, loutish critic
Like a puppet snarls and nips
At this source of strength and power,
Yet expires in eclipse.   In the work of man's advancement,
Or of woman from a neif,
Never yet was strong exertion
Made by men of unbelief;
As to break the human fetters
Men are only borne along
In determined, constant action,
Who believe the thing is wrong.   In this age when human learning
To producing doubtance tends,
And philosophy so vaunted
In agnosticism ends,
Wisdom says that greatness only
Hitherto has been achieved
By the men of steadfast purpose,
Who in something have believed.   Noble faith, thou giant power,
Leading men to action high,
Source of every grand endeavor,
And the deeds that deify--
May you stand throughout the ages
Towering o'er the wrecks of time,
Bearing fruit of thy inspiring
In the deeds that are sublime.

poems.one - William Henry Smith

William Henry Smith