We that are old—we comprehend; even we That are not mad: whose grown-up scions still abide; Their tale complete: Their earlier selves we glimpse at intervals Far in the dimming past; We see the little forms as once they were, And whilst we ache to take them to our hearts, The vision fades. We know them lost to us—Forever lost; we cannot have them back; We miss them as we miss the dead, We mourn them as we mourn the dead.
Selections from an unfinished book, “3,000 Years among the microbes”
The autobiography of A microbe, who, in A former existence, had been A man—his present habitat being the organism of A tramp, Blitzowski. (Written at Dublin, new Hampshire, 1905)
(See Chapter ccxxxv)
Our world (the tramp) is as large and grand and awe-compelling to us microscopic creatures as is man’s world to man. Our tramp is mountainous, there are vast oceans in him, and lakes that are sea-like for size, there are many rivers (veins and arteries) which are fifteen miles across, and of a length so stupendous as to make the Mississippi and the Amazon trifling little Rhode Island brooks by comparison. As for our minor rivers, they are multitudinous, and the dutiable commerce of disease which they carry is rich beyond the dreams of the American custom-house.
Take a man like Sir Oliver Lodge, and what secret of Nature can be hidden from him? He says: “A billion, that is a million millions,[?? Trillion D.W.] of atoms is truly an immense number, but the resulting aggregate is still excessively minute. A portion of substance consisting, of a billion atoms is only barely visible with the highest power of a microscope; and a speck or granule, in order to be visible to the naked eye, like a grain of lycopodium-dust, must be a million times bigger still.”
The human eye could see it then—that dainty little speck. But with my microbe-eye I could see every individual of the whirling billions of atoms that compose the speck. Nothing is ever at rest—wood, iron, water, everything is alive, everything is raging, whirling, whizzing, day and night and night and day, nothing is dead, there is no such thing as death, everything is full of bristling life, tremendous life, even the bones of the crusader that perished before Jerusalem eight centuries ago. There are no vegetables, all things are animal; each electron is an animal, each molecule is a collection of animals, and each has an appointed duty to perform and a soul to be saved. Heaven was not made for man alone, and oblivion and neglect reserved for the rest of His creatures. He gave them life, He gave them humble services to perform, they have performed them, and they will not be forgotten, they will have their reward. Man-always vain, windy, conceited-thinks he will be in the majority there. He will be disappointed. Let him humble himself. But for the despised microbe and the persecuted bacillus, who needed a home and nourishment, he would not have been created. He has a mission, therefore a reason for existing: let him do the service he was made for, and keep quiet.