25 OCTOBER 1930, Page 11

On the Eggs of a Dinosaur

By J. B. MonTox.

" The Dinosaur, with carelessness unmatched. Left eggs about, and died before they hatched. A nobler code rules beasts of smaller size ; The eggs are hatched before the mother dies."

rilHIS poem, which is not as widely known as it should be, I wrote myself. It was not a case of emotion recollected in tranquillity, for it was written in a kind of fever of inspiration, on reading in the newspaper that eggs belonging to a Dinosaur had been discovered in Montana. The effect of the Dinosaur, and of its family affairs, upon the average man of to-day, is comparatively unimportant. It is only we poets who pick up our ears when we are told that these eggs are ninety-five million years old, and eight feet high. It sounds too good to be true, and if a poet made the statement, instead of a scientist, everybody would say that he was up in the clouds again.

Let us consider these ancient eggs. What would have emerged from them ? A Dinosaur, of course. But what was the Dinosaur ? Some have said it was the dragon, and have based this guess on the fact that the beast had scales, and something birdlike about its hind legs. I take this theory to be mere foolery. Whenever a dragon appeared it was sure to be killed by a hero, and only a half-wit of a Dinosaur, confronted with the rising death- rate, would have failed to hatch its eggs. Moreover, dragons went on appearing long after the Dinosaur was extinct. St. Philip killed one in the first century, and tit. Nfartha slew the terrible Tarasque at Aix-la-Chapelle; which feat of hers proves that it is late in the day for Nordic women to start boasting about their athletic supremacy. Donatus, a Numidian rascal, is said to have killed one—but that I will never believe. He was too busy talking nonsense to the little Donatists, and was not the kind of man at all to go out against wild beasts. And who will pretend that there were any Dinosaurs left when St. George killed the dragon in Berkshire ? Or when King Peter III, of Aragon, in the middle of the thirteenth century, climbed the Canigou, in the Eastern Pyrenees ? The account of this climb says that the King threw a stone into a lake, and that immediately a great dragon rose from the water, and darkened all the air with its breath. If that was a Dinosaur, evolution had not done very much in nearly a hundred million years.

Hit be true, as Stauffmann says, that the Dinosaur is the ancestor of the bird, there is some explanation of these eggs deposited in Montana so many years ago. All we have to do is to prove that it was just about that time that the Dinosaur was becoming bird-minded. The new sensations and the new sense of freedom would naturally make the monster careless of tradition. She would no longer take the trouble to leave her eggs in a sunny place ; in fact she would probably be looking about already for a likely tree for her nest—and what a tree ! This would explain the unhatched eggs, dropped unthinkingly, any- where. Add to this the fact that an American Dinosaur would obviously seize on the new methods before a Dinosaur of any other nationality. If we argue on these premises, we shall see that the riddle of the eggs is by nc means insoluble. All the same, if I had been an enormoum creature of that sort, I would far rather the race were extinguished, with myself the last of the line, than that it should be transformed into a travesty of itself, with' eggs dwindling in size, year by year. Do you suppose that any atavistic memory would stir in the wren, the lark or the tomtit, if you confronted them with these Montana eggs ? Or could you blame the ghost of a Dinosaur, wandering unappeased, for sneering at the sparrow ?

However, there arc the eggs in Montana. What should be done with them ? They have been placed in a museum, and will soon be forgotten. It would be far better to give an exhibition, not necessarily at Burlington House, of all the best specimens it would be possible to collect. This is the course followed with Old Masters, Dutch, Flemish and Italian, and with Persian carpets. Yet the egg of a Dinosaur is far more rare, and far older. The holiday tour of foreign cities is not likely to include any treat of this sort. Is it too late for some public-spirited person to come forward, and arrange for the transportation of the best eggs to this country, where every care would be taken of them ?

There must be thousands of people who have never seen the egg of a Dinosaur, and will never, in the ordinary course of their sheltered lives, have the chance of seeing one. To them, such an exhibition as I suggest would be not only a pleasure but an education too.

It may be objected, not altogether unreasonably, that a big exhibition of Dinosaur eggs would be rather overdoing the thing. There is, in that case, an alternative. One or two of the eggs might be shown at a large private house lent for the occasion. The hostess might even give, in order to get the eggs talked about, one of those eccentric balls which are so popular to-day—a ball to which every guest must come in the guise of a Dinosaur's egg. Dinosaur parties would follow, and the interest of the general public would be aroused.

But all this is only a dream. You will never make people take the monster's eggs seriously. The most they can hope for is ephemeral fame in a music-hall joke, and I can even imagine an enterprising manager of music-halls engaging (as it were) one of these eggs as a " turn," and simply standing it on the stage. Ever

without a lecturer to introduce and explain it, it would draw enormous crowds, and its size might be emphasized by engaging as part of the same turn the gigantic Italian boxer, Primo Camera. I can see him, with one blow of his fist on the egg, hatching twelve dancing girls.

We may pass our jests, but there is a kind of ionnortality in this business of the eggs. Will any trace of us remair upon earth for ninety-five million years ? Nothing pen sonal, certainly. But will even any building remain as long as that, or any of our verse or our pictures ? 0 Dinosaur, perhaps the laugh is on us.