Yet another early-20th-century poem

In 1928, Harriet Williams Myers, then president of the California Audubon Society, authored a book in advance of the selection of California’s state bird. The book’s purpose is made plain at the start:

This booklet, concerning twenty-two birds that have been suggested as candidates for State Bird, was written to fill the demand of teachers, children, and others interested in participating in the vote, who were unable to dig out the information in books already published, and wished something simple and easily understood …

Myers’ case for each bird species includes a short poem. For the California condor:

+++++Oh, I am the biggest of birds
++++++++++In the whole big country o’er;
+++++I do good by ridding the land of dead things,
++++++++++Pray, how could I do more?

The notable feature of this simple verse is that it describes an ecological role for the California condor, namely, scavenging. In current language, the condor provides an ecosystem service, a benefit to humans. The poem shares this important idea with her audience of “teachers, children and others”.

The 4 early-20th-century poems that I considered in 2 previous posts were about the California condor itself, its appearance, flight, and character. None of those 4 poems considered the condor as part of something larger. Two of those poems considered humans but then only to highlight the condors’ indifference toward or separation from people.

Myers’ poem (and book) places here among the vanguard of those building connections between California condors and humans.

The previous posts referred to above are 2 poems from the early 20th century and 2 more poems from the early 20th century.


Myers, Harriet Williams. California state bird candidates. California Audubon Society. 1928.