Antiquities – The Fall

 

 

THE FALL

 

The Tribe emerged from Eden, and progressed

the way we found our noses pointed: west.

As long as we remained within clear view

of Eden’s borders, novelties were few.

The landscape looked familiar.  The terrain

was much like Eden’s vegetated plain,

though less luxuriant.  The shrubs and trees

were less diverse in their varieties.

Though food was not abundant, it was still

sufficient.  Day by day we found our fill.

We prowled around a while, a month or so,

then asked our Sage which way we ought to go.

Of that he wasn’t certain.  When he sought

suggestions from the magic Scroll he’d brought,

he found that tribal wags, with peerless wit,

had rolled Repugnant Matter up in it.

We’d known he had a flair for words.  Now he

displayed a talent for profanity.

With grinning innocence, we heard the Sage

describe our natures, in a mighty rage.

He ruled the book a total loss, and just

discarded it in anger and disgust.

Since all he knew had come from it alone,

he found himself completely on his own.

He pondered, scratched his head, and looked depressed.

Perhaps, he thought, our Goal lay somewhere west;

because, you see, one fact was clear at least:

we’d just retrace our tracks by heading east.

The Tribe set forth, with aspirations high.

We made brave pledges: We’d succeed or die.

Progressing west, we saw the landscape change

to rolling hills, and then a mountain range.

Behind us in the distance, Eden’s wall

had disappeared, concealed by forests tall

–or so the ancient chroniclers aver.

(A statement by the Gateman, earlier,

suggests an alternate hypothesis;

so which is less unlikely–that or this?)

 

Unwelcome facts emerged, before too long:

Outside our home, the world’s constructed wrong.

The trees and berry bushes sprouted thorns,

and wildlife made good use of claws and horns.

These things perplexed us.  Inside Eden’s wall

we’d had no natural enemies at all.

The wolves and tigers there ate grass, like deer,

but predators had coarser tastes, out here:

they hunted apes.

Quick rivals grabbed the shoots

we most preferred.  We had to chew on roots

or anything we found.  We raised the question

whether roughage might upset digestion–

whether we were best advised to go

back home.  A lot of us decided so;

and then when frost appeared, one chilly day,

these malcontents rebelled, and trooped away.

Presumably the fainthearts fled back east,

on Eden’s bounty once again to feast

–to sell their souls for Luxury, and spurn

the tribal glory we would someday earn.

Our leader called the Tribe in council, then

(or what was left of it).  He spoke again

of Pithecanic Destiny and such.

Our current woes, he said, were nothing much.

“Too long in useless indolence we dwelled!

Our lives have Purpose now!  If we’re compelled

to do without without our favorite nuts and grapes,

we’ll take such things in stride! Are we not Apes?”

And all the Tribe in answer bravely roared,

“We’ll be an indefatigable horde,

who’ll march forever, if we must, in quest

of Values of the noblest and the best!”

 

The Tribe thrust deeper into wilderness.

The bounty of the land grew less and less.

Each day we barely found enough, and then

sheer lack of forage drove us on again.

We weren’t impelled by lack of food alone;

our curiosity to see the world had grown.

Astonished by the landscape’s sheer extent,

we wanted, now, to see how far it went.

We learned to cope with Predators in ways

unknown before.  We found that Teamwork pays.

An ape who went to forage on his own,

could not contend with hungry of wolves alone;

but if we stuck together, five or six

of us could fight them off, by swinging sticks.

We forged ahead, to search the rocky holes

of some great Canyon, for our formless goals,

till real scarcities had changed our mood.

Thereafter, all  our searching was for food.

The hardships of our Quest were hard to know

ahead of time.  We next encountered Snow.

Our teeth began to chatter–then our bones.

Our feet and fingers grew as numb as stones.

As life’s necessities concerned us more

we gave less thought to what we’d come here foe

—whatever that was.

Many drifted back

in hopes repatriation rules were slack.

It’s doubtful that they got to Eden, though.

The archives say they would have had to go

past restless Glaciers which had blocked our way

back east.  We evidently had to stay.

We tried to reach the canyons further end,

but first we had the winter months to spend:

The Avalanches, crashing from on high

impressed us as a chilly way to die.

With both the exits choked with snow and ice,

we tried to scale the ridges, once or twice.

Our mountain climbers started through the snow.

An icy canyon wind began to blow.

Acclimatized, throughout recorded time

to Eden’s kindly, undemanding clime,

they weren’t conditioned to that sort of thing.

We found their frozen corpses in the spring.

We spent that winter in the canyon’s end,

and hoped spring thaws our confines would extend.

 

Since all of us were hungry as a shark,

we crunched on seeds, and gnawed on strips of bark

and other things we never would have known

were food for any race, much less our own.

We’ve always been a fast-adapting breed,

especially in times of pressing need.

Since herbivores must bear the famine’s brunt,

we modified our tastes, and learned to hunt,

and changed our diet readily enough–

although our first techniques were rude and rough.

We hounded game till it was out of breath,

then inhumanely cudgeled it to death.

We seldom caught enough.  An “‘om.ni.vore”

is “one who eats all foods” –then looks for more.

The tripe and gristle, giblets, fat and brain

were chewed on for the protein they contain.

Nor did we give up hunting in the spring;

we went on eating nearly everything.

The only difference was, when famine ceased,

our appetites accordingly increased.

Necessity had taught us first the way

–and then the attitudes–of beasts of prey.

We weren’t unique.  Voracious beasts would lurk,

all fur and fangs, in snowbound woodland murk;

and often some enormous, hairy shape

could with a single bite behead an ape

clear to his waist.  Mere sticks did not suffice,

rebounding from a skull as hard as ice.

We met some predatory breeds of Men

who stalked in frozen gully, glade and glen

and seemed to think they had a better right

to use these hunting grounds.  We had to fight

not only for the privilege to compete

for food, but lest we, too, be killed for meat.

These humans weren’t the Basic Species.  There

were shaggy Bigfoots, who could crush a bear

with grim embrace; and crossbow-shooting Gnomes

whose whiskers brushed their boots, who made their homes

in excavated mountain caves.  One more

part-human species was the Minotaur:

the stupidest of human breeds, but quite

impractical to hunt.  In hulk and height

they were a match for Bigfoots.  Basically

they had the figures of humanity,

except that to their shoulders was attached

a longhorn cattle head, which hardly matched.

Despite their bovine teeth, they didn’t eat

the pasturage, but lived on fresh-killed meat.

One scribe’s description, which survives till now,

says minotaurs had tails, just like a cow.

 

Since competition was ferocious, we

were forced to use our ingenuity;

and new inventions started to appear:

the Axe, the Tomahawk, the stone-tipped Spear.

With better tools, we dealt more deadly blows.

We blared on sheep horns, to out-roar our foes.

Inventors may take credit, if they please,

but no invention brought us lives of ease.

When better weapons made the sport too tame,

we found excuse to tackle bigger game.

By promptly rising to emergencies

was Ape emancipated from the trees.

He then, with no external change of shape,

evolved from Happy Dunce to

Killer Ape,

with spring-steel sinews, tiger-throttling paws,

and fangs to match his famine-toughened jaws;

with twice the courage of a bear, and wile

surpassing that of snake and crocodile;

with eyes as keen in darkness as in light,

and ears that plucked a whisper from the night:

a match for any predator alive–

a winner in the Struggle to Survive!

Our lives were full of hunger, strife and grime,

and Eden buried in the trash of time.