The thing about Phylums and Classes and Orders and all:
They don’t really mean very much, from a-one to another –
They don’t show a definite border or wall,
Except that each member within is a brother.
But how shall we simply compare, say, a Fam’ly of fishes
With Fam’lies of insects or fungi, or some other race –
For nature won’t readily yield to our wishes
For systems and schemes with all life in its place.
What’s needed are rankings that indicate something specific,
Like maybe the age when such clades were diverging anew –
There must be a way to be more scientific
That merely to shrug and decide “this’ll do”.
Then maybe some Kingdoms or Phylums will prove to be hoarders,
While others lack class in their Classes, now under-supplied.
So finally, let’s bring an order to Orders,
And give ev’ry Genus some Family pride.
It always struck me that the Linnaean ranks would be more useful if either all of their inhabitants shared a minimum percentage of genes, or alternatively that they were diverging at roughly the same time as all the others of that rank.
Henry moves his vertebrates,
And Louis tunes his tunicates,
While Malcolm swims his sharks and skates
To battle Olaf’s ranks of starfish pawns.
Boris risks bacillus rods
To fight with Oskar’s fungal squads,
As Richard launches octopods
To counter Philip’s shrimp-less group of prawns.
So James arrays his gymnosperms,
Like Ferdinand his cyan germs,
And Otto’s nematody worms,
At Charles’ yet-to-be-discovered spawns.
I should point out that the title is a mnemonic for the Linnaean ranks of life: Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus & Species. Actually, Domain is a relatively new addition, and plants have Divisions instead of Phylums (or Phyla if you’re a pedant), and the whole thing now looks hopelessly simplistic in the wake of cladistics, but it’s still a handy starting-point.
Are Water- and Cape- the more closely related ?
Who knows ?
Why are those ‘true’ while the Bison are ‘false’ ?
I say they all are true buffaloes !
You label the grouping as polyphyletic,
Like ‘shrew’ –
But what does it matter their genes, when we’re talking
Of big things with horns that go moo ?
So pedants and cladists may mutter and sleight, But Buffalo Gals, won’t you come out tonight ?
And did you know twenty-five cities and towns
And how many towns in the States are called Bison ?
Well well, only three !
So don’t try and tell me I can’t call the bison
All ‘buffaloes’, mate !
Cos Buffalo Soldiers and Buffalo Bill,
And Buffalo Springfield and Buffalo Twill,
And the Buffalo Wings at the Buffalo Grill,
Tell me you’re way way too late.
So pedants and cladists may grumble and snide, But Buffalo Gals go round the outside.
Magpie, magpie, all upon your lonely,
Have you an omen or an auspice to portend ?
Tell me, oh magpie, perched all one and only,
What do you impart, my fortune-casting friend ?
Magpies, magpies, twosome in my setting,
Have you an omen or an auspice to bestow ?
Tell me, oh magpies, the pair of you abetting,
What do you impart – am I set for joy or woe ?
Magpies, magpies, thrice upon my vision,
Have you an omen or an auspice to enprime ?
Tell me, oh magpie, a trio on your mission,
What do you impart for my future-coming time ?
Magpies, magpies, four of you here gathered,
Have you an omen or an auspice for my mood ?
I tell you, oh magpies, I think your signs are blathered,
You’ve nothing to impart – you’re too busy finding food.
There is a cat who watches trains
And makes his home in signal boxes,
Lives beneath the weathered gables,
Catches rats who chew the cables.
Grey, he is, with smoky grains
That fleck his coat the way of foxes,
’Cept the tramlines down his back
Which earn his name of Clickerclack.
They shine out silver, brow to rump
They even bear the marks for sleepers;
Branded thus, his fate assured
His working for the Railways Board.
So where a plague of rodents clump
Within the homes of signal-keepers –
Unannounced by midnight freight
Comes Clickerclack to extirpate.
He bites, he claws, he chews in half
And shreds them into vermicelli –
Drives them out and leaves his scent
To fright them off resettlement.
And when his work is done, the staff
Will feed him fish and rub his belly.
Then it’s off to boxes new
Aboard the 07:22.