Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > American
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. I–V: American
 
Similar Cases
By Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935)
 
THERE was once a little animal,
  No bigger than a fox,
And on five toes he scampered
  Over Tertiary rocks.
They called him Eohippus,        5
  And they called him very small,
And they thought him of no value,
  When they thought of him at all;
For the lumpish old Dinoceras
  And Coryphodon so slow        10
Were the heavy aristocracy
  In days of long ago.
 
Said the little Eohippus,
  “I am going to be a horse,
And on my middle finger-nails        15
  To run my earthly course.
I’m going to have a flowing tail;
  I’m going to have a mane;
I’m going to stand fourteen hands high
  On the psychozoic plain!”        20
 
The Coryphodon was horrified,
  The Dinoceras was shocked,
And they chased young Eohippus,
  But he skipped away and mocked.
Then they laughed enormous laughter,        25
  And they groaned enormous groans,
And they bade young Eohippus
  Go view his father’s bones.
Said they: “You always were as small
  And mean as now we see,        30
And that’s conclusive evidence
  That you’re always going to be.”
“What! be a great, tall, handsome beast,
  With hoofs to gallop on?
Why! you’d have to change your nature!”        35
  Said the Loxolophodon.
They considered him disposed of,
  And retired with gait serene;
That was the way they argued
  In “the early Eocene.”        40
 
There was once an Anthropoidal Ape,
  Far smarter than the rest,
And everything that they could do
  He always did the best;
So they naturally disliked him,        45
  And they gave him shoulders cool,
And when they had to mention him
  They said he was a fool.
 
Cried this pretentious Ape one day,
  “I’m going to be a Man,        50
And stand upright, and hunt, and fight
  And conquer all I can;
I’m going to cut down forest trees,
  To make my houses higher;
I’m going to kill the Mastodon;        55
  I’m going to make a fire!”
 
Loud screamed the Anthropoidal Apes
  With laughter wild and gay;
They tried to catch that boastful one,
  But he always got away.        60
So they yelled at him in chorus,
  Which he minded not a whit;
And they pelted him with coconuts,
  Which didn’t seem to hit.
And then they gave him reasons        65
  Which they thought of much avail,
To prove how his preposterous
  Attempt was sure to fail.
Said the sages, “In the first place,
  The thing cannot be done;        70
And, second, if it could be,
  It would not be any fun.
And, third, and most conclusive,
  And admitting no reply,
You would have to change your nature!        75
  We should like to see you try.”
They chuckled then triumphantly,
  These lean and hairy shapes,
For these things passed as arguments
  With the Anthropoidal Apes.        80
 
There was once a Neolithic Man,
  An enterprising wight,
Who made his chopping implements
  Unusually bright;
Unusually clever he,        85
  Unusually brave,
And he drew delightful Mammoths
  On the borders of his cave.
To his Neolithic neighbors,
  Who were startled and surprised,        90
Said he: “My friends, in course of time
  We shall be civilized;
We are going to live in cities;
  We are going to fight in wars;
We are going to eat three times a day        95
  Without the natural cause;
We are going to turn life upside down
  About a thing called gold;
We are going to want the earth, and take
  As much as we can hold;        100
We are going to wear great piles of stuff
  Outside our proper skins;
We are going to have Diseases!
  And Accomplishments!! And Sins!!!”
 
Then they all rose up in fury        105
  Against their boastful friend,
For prehistoric patience
  Cometh quickly to an end.
Said one, “This is chimerical!
  Utopian! Absurd!”        110
Said another, “What a stupid life!
  Too dull, upon my word!”
Cried all, “Before such things can come,
  You idiotic child,
You must alter Human Nature!”        115
  And they all sat back and smiled.
Thought they, “An answer to that last
  It will be hard to find!”
It was a clinching argument
  To the Neolithic Mind!        120
 
 
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