Poet Ruth Padel divides Darwin: A Life in Poems into five chapters, one for each discrete stage of the scientist's life. Chapter Two, which addresses his travels on the H.M.S. Beagle, pulsates with rich, sensuous imagery that echoes Darwin's enchantment with the natural world. While exploring a Brazilian rainforest, for example, Darwin has an arboreal revelation: "Bristles of orchid leaves on every black branch/like green flames over Bibles./Botanical forms gyrate and pour/through rivers of otherworld bark/and a wrestling musculature of pure/live wood." Far from diminishing his reverence for nature, his burgeoning belief in evolution opens vistas as immense as the sparsely populated American prairies that the Lewis and Clark Expedition had mapped not long before the voyage of the Beagle.
Darwin covers its subject's life not only as a scientist but also as a devoted husband ...
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