When picture puzzles were the rage,
the Spectator sat up nights
with the best of the maniacs,
delighting in featureless backgrounds
and the tiniest of jig-saw bits.
But he stood almost in awe,
watching a preparator making a dinosaur
out of thousands of fossil scraps.
On a table before him were spread
row after row of splintered fragments--
crushed bones, ribs, of an utterly uknown fossil beast.
From these he proposed to piece out coherent, intelligible members
of the creatures bony frame.
Steadily, without haste,
he tries this bit of bone with that,
passes it on and tries another.
it may be days, it may be hours--
two edges will lock.
Cementing these together,
he resumes the endless puzzle,
from barrels of fragments
is built up a meaningful shape.
The Spectator inspected specimens
fresh from the field,
each splintered and bandaged in canvas
stiffened with plaster of paris
to bind safely the last shattered bit.
He gave his full meed of admiration to a man
who was modeling in clay
a nice curve for the dinosaur's backbone.
As much loving care is spent
on posing these
as a sculptor expends
on his Niobe
or his Ariadne.
Not only historic probability
but lifelike, even dramatic, effects
are aimed at, and, as any visitor to the gallery will testify,
almost too well achieved.
There's that terrific group representing
a fierce skeleton Allosaurus
tearing brutally at the carcass
of a huge Brontosaurus--
a thing to haunt one in dreams!
The Spectator bethought him to demand
by what right an innocent dinosaur,
turned to stone millions of years ago,
is thus made to figure
before a remote posterity
in a murdering light.
"I suppose," he remarked, caustically,
"you didn't catch him in the act?"