An Ode to Old Pliny

Born to a Noble Family shortly after BC

Gaius Plinius Secundus was he,

Or Pliny to both his family and friends

At 23 he fought German barbarians.


Bored of the fighting he moved back to Rome

And in grammatical textbooks soon found a home,

Writing about history and collecting with tact

Over 20,000 accounts of Natural ‘fact’.


Such as how monsters roamed in the Far East

And how Illyrians were all one-eyed beasts,

He wrote of how elephants shudder at mice

With bee kings not queens; he was quite precise.


Collecting so much in 37 volumes of work

He didn’t have time to check all the quirks,

Such as children who rode dolphins to school

But his eccentricity didn’t make him a fool.


He rose every day at the stroke of midnight

And in reading and dictating took his greatest delight,

Often being carried from pillar to post

With his scribe and his reader, listening always to both.


His end came on a beach covered in dust

Brought about by erupting Mount Vesuvius,

Pliny the younger, should have been there

But thankfully wasn’t and so there was an heir.


With no full-scale critique until 1492

Pliny the Elder’s reputation just grew,

And whilst he was often wide of the mark

In the sciences he made one hell of a start!


It’s how he’d want to be remembered (Photo credit: Thomas Cizauskas).

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