Talking on the Internet to people who consider themselves to be rationalists makes me realise how much I cherish the irrational. Stories and nature were my first loves and as that phrasing indicates emotion was at the heart of that devotion.
Just glancing again at Ruth Padel’s ‘Darwin- A life in poems- reminds me of the creative mix in Darwin of the irrational and the rational. His worries about his health and deep commitment to his wife and friends, and lifelong wonder at the nature of things, don’t seem to have blighted his intellect but stimulated it and provided him with a secure and meaningful context in which to conduct his researches.
The death of his children and the cruelty of creation in general were greater influences on the loss of his faith than his ‘discovery’ of evolution by natural selection.
The poet describes thus his first encounter, in Brazil, with deep rain forest.
‘Bristle 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. This church breathing dark…
Imagery which works brilliantly in the present and sounds just for Darwin’s impressions at the time.